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History is now being written in the United States 
by a larger number of persons than ever before. It 
is also being taught and studied more extensively 
than ever in our schools, colleges, and universities 
and with excellent results. Every part of the educa- 
tional machine has done its share to make this a fat 
age for the historian. Yet in proportion to the popu- 
lation history is less read to-day by voluntary readers 
than it was read a hundred years ago. None of our 
historians command the same degree of respect from 
the public that men like Bancroft, Prescott, Irving, 
Motley, and Sparks commanded in their day. 

It would be diflficult to name a historian who now 
makes a living out of his profession of historian. 
Most of those who are writing are able to live from 
personal incomes or from their salaries as profes- 
sors of history. We have been used to this state of 
affairs so long that many intelligent people do not 
realize that there was once a day in which American 
writers could trust themselves wholly to history and 
not be disappointed. If in describing the careers of 
the men who succeeded in this field in the past century 
this book can at the same time give historians and the 


well wishers of history some more confidence in the 
historian's profession, it will accomplish two very 
desirable things. 

My plan has been to throw up in large outline the 
most eminent of the men of the group concerned. 
Jeremy Belknap, George Bancroft, Jared Sparks, 
William Hickling Prescott, John Lothrop Motley, 
and Peter Force have been given special prominence, 
while the work of other men has been treated in 
an introductory chapter on the development of our 
history before the civil war. Such an introduction, it 
is hoped, will serve for a background against which the 
careers of the most eminent characters may be out- 
lined in bold relief with advantageous results. Prob- 
ably the American of to-day will derive more pleasure 
from such a treatment of the subject than from a book 
in which all the historians within the "middle period" 
should be treated in space allotments proportionate to 
their services. The present volume, also, may serve 
me for an outline of a larger work of the more compre- 
hensive kind just mentioned, if health and years allow 
me to write it. 

In one sense the "middle period" begins with the 
end of the revolution : in another it begins soon after 
the war of 1812, let us say about 1826, when Sparks 
began to give himself to history. The reader may 
choose the beginning for himself. It is certain that 
history writing took on a new character with the 
achievement of independence, and it is also certain 


that Sparks's widely heralded researches infused a new 
spirit into the historians of the day. 

The end of the period, as I understand it, lies where 
the scientific spirit secures domination over the patri- 
otic school that had ruled for several decades. Pos- 
sibly the organization of the American Historical 
Association in 1884 would be a convenient date to 
mark the beginning of a new period. On the other 
hand the Association was in some respects the result 
rather than the herald of a new school. From 1865 
to 1884, however, history in the United States was 
written in the afterglow of the civil war, and it was 
not scientific. Keeping in mind both sides of this 
dilemma, we may say that the new spirit existed funda- 
mentally in the minds of scholars about the middle of 
the century and that it was not revealed to public 
view until the cloud of sectional feeling lifted. In this 
view the year 1884 may well be taken as the dividing 
point between two periods of historical endeavor in our 

For my purposes I have chosen to assign Parkman 
to the new school. While he wrote with that fine 
appreciation of style which was characteristic of Ban- 
croft and the literary historians, his industry, his 
research among documents, and especially his detach- 
ment seem to place him among the men of to-day. 
On the whole, the assignment of Parkman to the new 
school is satisfactory to me, although other persons 
may not hold the same opinion of it. 


Each of the sketches of individuals here submitted 
is necessarily a unit in itself. But each man had some- 
thing to do with another of the group. To give an 
account of each career, therefore, has made some repe- 
tition necessary. I hope a charitable reader will 
believe that I have sought to reduce it to the lowest 
terms in keeping with lucid and informing narrative. 

The substance of the second, third, and fourth chap- 
ters was given in three lectures before the Institute of 
Arts and Sciences of Columbia University, in October, 
1916 ; and a large part of the fifth chapter was read in 
the same month before the Massachusetts Historical 
Society. None of this matter, however, is published 
elsewhere than in these pages. 


Northampton, Massachusetts, 
November 1, 1916. 



I, Early Progress of History in the United States 

1. The Colonial Historians . 

2. The Influence of the Revolution 

3. Popular Historical Writers 

4. Jeremy Belknap and Ebenezer Hazard 

5. Early Histories of the United States . 

6. Gayarre . . ... 

n. Jared Sparks 

1. Early Activities ... 

2. Editor of the North American Review 

3. Early Historical Activity . 

4. Twelve Fruitful Years 

5. Collector of Historical Documents 

6. Sparks in the Hands of His Critics 

7. Sparks's Method of Working 

8. College Professor and President 

rH. George Bancroft: 

1. Student and Schoolmaster 

2. Literary Apprenticeship . 

3. A Literary Politician 

4. Early Career as a Historian 

5. Bancroft as a Statesman . 

6. Minor Activities 

IV. Two Literary Historians : 

1. William Hickling Prescott 

2. John Lothrop Motley 
















V. Peter Force, the Compiler : 

1. His Early Career 233 

2. The American Archives, Origin of the Enter- 

prise 239 

3. Relations with the Government . . . 246 

4. The Work Published 261 

5. Peter Force as a Collector .... 274 

6. Other Activities of Peter Force .... 290 

7. Last Years of Activity 293 

VI. The Historians and Their Publishers 







1. The Colonial Historians 

The first historians in the region which is now the 
United States were European-born Americans, who 
wrote with the behef that future generations would 
demand the story of the beginnings of a great state. 
To them it was a pious duty to record the events they 
had witnessed. In Virginia and in Massachusetts 
they were especially notable. For the history of the 
establishment of the former colony we have Captain 
John Smith, William Strachey, Edward Maria Wing- 
field, John Pory, George Percy, Rev. Alexander 
Whitaker, and George Sandys, all of whom wrote of 
the first years of the colony. After them came a 
pause of nearly a hundred years before historians 
long resident in the colony began to write. For 
Massachusetts we have the beginnings described by 


Edward Winslow, Governor William Bradford, and 
John Winthrop, English-trained men who were deeply 
loyal to the purposes for which the New England col- 
onies were founded and who wrote in order that poster- 
ity might not forget how the early perils had been met 
and overcome. 

Each group was grimly in earnest and very religious, 
but in different ways. The Virginians were members 
of the Church of England at a time when it was deeply 
inspired by the reforms of the Elizabethan age. Puri- 
tanism still dwelt within its body, but the genial influ- 
ence of the Book of Common Prayer was also felt. 
Early Virginia zeal, therefore, was a thing fit for roman- 
tic adventurers staking their all on the favor of God and 
their own ability. When it expressed itself in historical 
literature it was freely human. Something of the 
same cast of thought that gave Shakspere and Ben 
Jonson their peculiar charm was revealed in it. The 
Puritan historians were rigidly devout. They belong 
to the period which saw the triumph of the men who 
taught rigid simplicity. For the resonant phrases of 
the Prayer Book they substituted the severe conven- 
tions of Calvin. Romance was chased out of the heart 
and the fear of hell was suspended like a sword over 
every threshold. Strict morals and godly living were 
instilled in the minds of young and old. Spontaneity 
gave place to self-restraint and human feelings were 
clipped and shorn of all that did not lead to pious 


The Puritan was intellectual. His disputes over 
dogma sharpened his wits, he delighted in arguments, 
and his democratic form of society promoted popular 
education. The early Puritans, therefore, showed 
more interest than the Virginians in preserving their 
history, after the first burst of zeal was over. In 
Virginia idealism quickly gave place to materialism, 
as tobacco and land became the subjects of thinking 
and planning. In New England Puritan idealism 
lost something, no doubt, with the passage of the imme- 
diate era of migration, but it remained the strongest 
fact in these colonies. Thus the impulse to write 
history was kept alive, a vital thing, and historical works 
appeared — at great intervals, it is true — but without 
the long period of silence that left Virginia nearly a 
century with no voice raised in telling the story of 
her past. 

Let us pursue the contrast a little further. The 
literary impulse in Virginia was destined to be ephem- 
eral. It could hardly have been otherwise, since it 
was born of the mere zeal for planting a new dominion 
of the English stock. Tobacco growing and land 
speculation soon became the absorbing themes of con- 
versation and striving. Prosperity came apace and a 
leisure class appeared; but it was not a thoughtful 
class. Outside nature was most genial, inviting the 
planters to the soft pleasures of the senses. Courtesy 
and pleasant manners, hospitality and the love of per- 
sonal honor went into the standards of the best living ; 


but severe mental discipline was not a characteristic of 
either planter, clergyman, or lawyer. Here was no 
fertile ground for the development of history writing. 
The first native Virginian to break through the crust 
of indifference was Robert Beverley, a prominent 
planter, who pubhshed a "History of Virginia" in 
1705. He was led to write the book by accident, and 
not by a desire to assume the role of historian. While 
in London he was shown that part of Oldmixon's 
"British Empire in America" which related to Vir- 
ginia. He was disgusted with its defects and under- 
took to write a better book. He had been secretary 
of Virginia and was acquainted with the documentary 
sources of its history. He did not, however, make a 
large use of them ; and the chief value of his work was 
in his wise and comprehensive views of colonial society. 
The other historian of this colony was William 
Stith. He was a man of true scholarship; and his 
"History of the First Discovery and Settlement of 
Virginia," published as part one of a larger work, 
appeared in 1747. It was accurate, so far as avail- 
able materials went. He had access to the records of 
the London Company and drew largely from them and 
from the works of Captain John Smith. Part one ended 
with the fall of the company in 1624. Stith had no 
sense of proportion, and his book did not please the 
Virginia planters, being too heavy for their taste. 
They gave it such poor encouragement that he did not 
carry his researches further. While he is entitled to 


credit for writing a thoroughly modern book, we can 
commend neither his lack of adjustment to his public 
nor his want of devotion to the cause of history. Had 
he been very earnest in his vocation he would not have 
been discouraged by the indifference of his compa- 
triots. His failure left Virginia history an unworked 
field for many a year. 

Turning to New England we find a more steady 
development. Bradford and Winthrop were men of 
great insight. The first wrote "The History of Plym- 
outh Plantation" from the beginning to 1646, leav- 
ing his manuscript unpublished. The book has been 
preserved in this state, a part of it being published by 
Bradford's nephew, Nathaniel Morton, in his "New 
England's Memorial," 1669. The manuscript was in 
the tower of the Old South Church, in Boston, when 
the revolution began. It was carried off by British 
soldiers and was long considered lost ; but it came at 
last to the library of the Bishop of London, where it 
lay unnoticed in his grace's library at Fulham 
Palace. Bishop Wilberforce, of Oxford, discovered it 
and mentioned it in 1844 in a book on the Protestant 
church in America. Anderson also spoke of it in his 
"History of the Colonial Church," in 1848. Seven 
years later two gentlemen in Boston came across the 
reference in Anderson and took steps to establish the 
identity of the manuscript. The discovery caused 
great rejoicing in Boston literary circles. The Bishop 
of London refused to surrender the precious manu- 


script, but allowed a copy to be taken, from which 
the Massachusetts Historical Society published a com- 
plete edition in 1856, enriched with notes by Charles 
Deane. In 1896 the Bishop of London gave up the 
manuscript, which was deposited in the State Library, 
in Boston ; and in 1912 it was published by the Massa- 
chusetts Historical Society in a final authoritative form 
with valuable additional notes by Worthington C. 
Ford. Bradford's "History" is a Puritan book in the 
best sense. It is an earnest and sincere record in a 
loosely annalistic form, deriving its chief value from its 
accurate statement of facts and its transparent hon- 
esty. It will ever remain one of the most valuable 
books in the field of American history. 

John Winthrop's journal, published first ^ in 1790, 
is generally known as "A History of New England." 
It deals with the period from 1630 to 1649. Winthrop, 
more than anyone else, was the founder of the colony 
of Massachusetts Bay, and he was long its governor. 
His book is a careful account of such transactions as 
he thought worth preserving. It is very full of events 
relating to Massachusetts, and, like Bradford's book, 
it abounds in incidents that the author considered 
manifestations of God's special care for his people. 
But one who reads it must gain a vivid impression of 
the life and problems in church and state of the founders 

' Winthrop's manuscript is in three volumes. The third was lost for a 
while and did not appear in the edition of 1790. It was, however, dis- 
covered in 1816, and a complete edition was published in two volumes in 
1825-26 with notes by James Savage. A new edition appeared in 1853. 


of New England. Though it has less unity and less 
charm of narration than the "History of Plymouth 
Plantation," it is one of the great books of our historical 

While some less important books belong to the early 
period of New England existence, we do not come to 
another notable group of historical works until we 
come to the long struggle of the settlers with the 
Indians. Here was a series of dramatic events which 
made a deep impression on the people. Other parts 
of the continent had their Indian wars, but nowhere 
else was there the same disposition to write about 
them. The desire to preserve heroic deeds and to 
attest the goodness of providence in giving victory 
to his servants was alleged as the object for which the 
writers wrote ; but it may be assumed that one object 
of the authors was to make money, always the most 
sustaining motive of popular historical efforts. These 
narratives were full of a spirit of severity. To the 
settlers of colonial times, as to the frontiersmen of the 
nineteenth century, the savages were the embodiment 
of cruelty. It was rare that one of the narrators 
showed tolerance for the natives, who in reality were 
only defending their homes from the aggression of the 
whites. Acts of cruelty on the part of the Indians 
were not wanting, but they were probably offset by 
the retaliation of the white men ; and the narratives 
that have come down to us are full of a spirit of satis- 
faction for the fell vengeance of the colonial armies. 


The Pequot war, King Philip's war, and the long 
series of struggles that occurred in connection with the 
conflict between the British and the French in America 
furnished the themes. Particularly appealing were 
the narratives of the suffering captives taken by the 
Indians and carried off to Canada. Some of these 
narratives, notably Rev. John Williams's "Redeemed 
Captive returning to Zion" and Mrs. Mary Row- 
landson's "Narrative of Captivity and Restoration," 
are extremely vivid and pathetic stories of adventure. 
This cycle of minor historical narratives stimulated the 
interest of the people in history and opened the road 
to more serious things. 

Of the writers who wrote about the growth of 
political and religious life in New England two were 
most notable, Thomas Prince and Thomas Hutchinson. 
The first was a minister in Boston. In his profession 
he was not eminent, being a thoughtful man whose 
ministrations were not characterized by eloquent 
preaching or original theological views. But he loved 
the records of the past and possessed the true anti- 
quarian spirit. He was zealous in collecting docu- 
ments and works published on New England history. 
His valuable library was preserved in the tower of the 
Old South Church until the irreverent British soldiers, 
who held Boston against the revolting colonists until 
Washington drove them out in 1776, took the edifice 
for a riding school and left the books to the mercy of 
careless intruders. Some of these treasures survived the 


perils of the time and are now in the keeping of the 
Boston PubHc Library. But the most enduring result 
of Prince's devotion to history was his "Chronological 
History of New England in the form of Annals," the 
first volume of which was published in 1736. It was 
dull and formless, but it was written in the most care- 
ful manner. Accuracy and love of detail make it a 
delight to the genealogist and antiquarian. "I cite 
my vouchers to every passage," he said, "and I have 
done my utmost, first to find out the truth, and then 
to relate it in the clearest order." Posterity is willing 
to grant that he achieved his object, and it gives him 
a place among the most worthy of our historical 
scholars. The small sale of his first volume, which 
carried the story of New England history to September 
7, 1630, caused the publisher to refuse to bring out a 
second volume. The author was not able to proceed 
at that time, but in 1755 he began a continuation in 
serial parts at sixpence each. This venture proved as 
unpopular as the first volume, and only three of the 
parts were published. Like Stith, in Virginia, he had 
not the art of pleasing the public. 

Thomas Hutchinson was probably the best historian 
who wrote in the colonial period. He was a descendant 
of Mrs. Anne Hutchinson, the Antinomian, and some- 
thing of her free spirit and mental acumen was in him. 
He graduated from Harvard when sixteen years old, 
became a prosperous Boston merchant, and finally was 
called into the service of the colony. He became 


lieutenant-governor in 1758, chief justice in 1760, acting 
governor in 1769, and governor in 1771. For a time 
he was very popular, but his stand in favor of loyalty 
in the controversy with the crown brought the whigs 
down upon him. The stamp act mob destroyed his 
house and scattered his books and papers through the 
streets. He tried to reconcile the king and his sub- 
jects, hoping to save the integrity of the British empire. 
In 1774 he went to England, never to return. The 
king allowed him a pension and Oxford gave him the 
honorary degree of doctor civilis juris, but neither 
money nor honor could salve a heart that bled for the 
sufferings of his native land. He died in 1780. 

Among the articles of property recovered after his 
house was wrecked by the stamp act rioters was the 
soiled manuscript of the second volume of his "History 
of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay." The first had 
appeared in 1764, bringing the history of the colony 
down to 1691. The second volume, so fortunately 
rescued, was published in 1767. It carried the narra- 
tive forward to 1750. After his arrival in London 
Hutchinson completed a third volume which was left 
unpublished until 1828. His book is not faultless. 
The object of abuse by the whigs, he could hardly be 
expected to give full credit to their motives ; but it 
may be said that he had a fairer sense of the two- 
sidedness of the controversy than any other person 
who wrote about it for a hundred years after the 
revolution was over. In the earlier part of the work 


the treatment is broad and well balanced, details are 
subordinated to larger movements, and there is more 
detachment than in any other New England historian. 
As a liberal and able man of culture, Hutchinson set 
out to create a picture of the colony's progress ; and he 
performed his task in the manner of a master. 

Not all the colonial historians lived in Virginia and 
Massachusetts. Outside of these colonies are a few 
men who would demand notice in a longer sketch than 
this. Among them are Dr. Cadwallader Golden and 
William Smith, of New York, Samuel Smith, of New 
Jersey, and John Lawson, of North Carolina, all men 
of fair ability. The first, second, and fourth were 
colony officials of high rank, men who stood out above 
the mass, of colonists in which they lived. The third, 
Samuel Smith, was a plain Quaker, industrious and 
conscientious. His book described the history of New 
Jersey with the pen of an average man, at a time when 
the difference between average men and their superiors 
was wider than it is to-day. It has not been entirely 
superseded. Of all the group only one, John Lawson, 
had a good literary style. 

2. The Influence of the Revolution 

The immediate effect of the Revolution was unfavor- 
able to the writing of history. It produced a period 
of confusion, in which the attention of men was de- 
manded by the more serious problems of life. A large 
portion of the leisure class, those who would either 


write or read history, were tories, some of whom were 
driven from the country, while the others were at vari- 
ance with the spirit of the new government and were 
not interested in its history. The whigs, however, 
were zealous for their history, but their zeal oozed out 
at their finger tips. Ebenezer Hazard, who had in 
mind great historical projects, gives us the following 
illuminating statement : 

"The war and the numerous avocations consequent upon it, have 
thrown every man's mind into such an unsettled and confused 
state that but few can tliink steadily upon any subject. They 
hear of useful designs, they give you all the encouragement which 
can be derived from the warmest approbation of your plan, they 
will even promise you assistance. Politics intrude — kick you and 
your designs out of their heads ; and when you appear again, why 
they really forgot that the matter had been mentioned to them. 
I have been repeatedly served so with reference to my collection." ^ 

This complaint was written in 1779, while war was 
still the chief object of interest. Soon after peace was 
made, historians of the glorious struggle began to 
appear; but their chief source of information was 
British. Out of the records of the thirteen colonies, 
badly kept and preserved in places widely remote from 
one another, it was a difficult task to prepare a narra- 
tive of what had been done. But in England were all 
the reports of operations in one collection, sent home 
by British oflScers. And out of these reports had been 
prepared year by year the accounts of military events 
in the "Annual Register" then conducted under whig 

1 Belknap Papers, I, 12 (" Colls." Mass. Histl. Soc, Ser. V, Vol. II). 


influence. At that time the British whigs opposed 
the American war and believed that the American 
whigs would have remained loyal Britons had they not 
been mistreated. Among them was Edmund Burke, 
who was employed to write the statements in the 
"Register" referring to the American controversy. 
He wrote well, giving the facts that made the conduct 
of the Americans appear in a favorable light. 

It was, therefore, to Burke, in the "Annual Register" 
that the first American historians turned for their in- 
formation in writing about the revolution. They 
trusted him implicitly : in fact, they copied large por- 
tions of his narrative without quotation marks and 
with little or no change. Two men were particularly 
notable in this respect, Rev. William Gordon, D.D., 
and Dr. David Ramsay. The former was a clergyman 
living near Boston during the war. He returned to 
England in 1786 and in 1788 published in London his 
"History of the Rise, Progress, and Establishment of 
the Independence of the United States of America," 
a substantial book in four volumes. It was generally 
accepted as an original work and was widely read. 
The present generation, having discovered that most 
of it was taken from the "Register," holds it in slight 
honor. Dr. Ramsay's work, "History of the Ameri- 
can Revolution," in two volumes, was published in 
1789. The author did not hold the view of the British 
whigs that the revolt was due solely to the mistakes of 
the tory government. He declared that it was a 


natural result of general tendencies, the growing dis- 
position of Great Britain to unify the empire and the 
growing desire of the colonists to rule themselves. But 
for a large portion of the information in his book he 
drew directly from the "Annual Register." Dr. Ram- 
say was a resident of Charleston, South Carolina, and 
was more noted as an author and political leader than 
as a physician. He wrote several books besides his 
work on the revolution: in fact, he was, perhaps, the 
most active historian of his day in the United States ; 
but none of his other productions had the same vogue 
as the "History of the Revolution." 

The desire to preserve the record of the struggle for 
independence that resulted in histories of the war led 
to the writing of biographies of its prominent leaders. 
Of this class the most famous was Chief Justice Mar- 
shall's "Life of George Washington" (5 vols., 1804- 
1807). Although federalist in spirit, it was a well-con- 
structed work, worthy of the subject and of the author's 
high position. It was accepted by the friends of Wash- 
ington as a sufficient tribute, and was issued in several 
editions. Another biography that had a wide circu- 
lation, written also by an eminent statesman and deal- 
ing with one of the heroes of the revolution, was 
William Wirt's "Sketches of the Life and Character of 
Patrick Henry" (1817). In sentiment and manner it 
was the opposite of Marshall's book ; for it was repub- 
lican in feeling and light and trivial in treatment. 
But the author's easy style made it an attractive book 


of its kind, and it was widely read. At the time these 
two books were written the market for literature in the 
United States was dominated by strong personal sen- 
timent. A man bought a biography because it set 
forth his own political sentiments or his ideas of noble 
character. Marshall wrote for people holding one 
kind of political views and Wirt for those holding 
another kind. Both paid tribute to exalted personal 
character, and neither wrote impartially. Hume's not- 
able example of critical scholarship had not yet been 
adopted into the literary thought of the readers of 
history. We were all partisans of our own cause in the 
contest with Great Britain and, whether we wished to 
know its simple history or to read the biographies of 
its leaders, we demanded narratives that stimulated 

Another field in which historians wrote in this period 
was state histories. Colonies had developed into states 
and hopes for their future ran high. Should not the 
stories of the states in their early stages of growth be 
written down ? Local pride asserted itself, and the 
result was several works, as Belknap's "History of 
New Hampshire" (3 vols., 1784, 1792), Proud's "His- 
tory of Pennsylvania from 1681 till after the Year 
1742" (2 vols., 1797, 1798), Minot's continuation of 
Hutchinson's history of Massachusetts (2 vols., 1798, 
1803) and his "History of the Insurrection in Massa- 
chusetts" (1788), and Trumbull's "History of Con- 
necticut" (2 vols., 1818). All these books were well 


written and have maintained places in our historical 
literature to this day. Of Proud and Belknap more 
will be said later on. There were, also, three histories 
of Southern states originating in this impulse ; but 
they were, unfortunately, less respectable than those 
already mentioned. They were : Dr. Ramsay's " His- 
tory of South Carolina" (2 vols., 1809), Burk's "His- 
tory of Virginia" (3 vols., 1804, 1805), and Dr. William- 
son's "History of North Carolina" (2 vols., 1812). 
These writers had more zeal than industry and were 
guilty of gross neglect of the sources of information. 

Robert Proud has for me a pathetic interest. He 
was one of the first Americans to combine the func- 
tions of historian and schoolmaster.^ He was very poor 
and struggled hard against straitened circumstances, 
producing at the end a book which satisfies many of the 
qualifications of the modern school of history. He was 
born in Yorkshire, England, May 10, 1728, and by 
hard study secured a good preliminary education in 
the local schools. He fell under the influence of the 
Yorkshire Quakers and when he came of age settled 
in London as tutor of the two sons of a prominent 
Quaker. Being a thoughtful man he took up the study 
of medicine, but gave it up when he observed that 
most of the diseases a physician had to treat were 
the results of vice. Essentially moral, he shrank 
from a life in which he must deal with those who 
violated moral laws. 

' William Stith was also a schoolmaster. 


In 1759 he arrived in Philadelphia, where his em- 
ployment was uncertain for a time. He was a protege 
of Anthony Benezet.^ But in 1761 he became a teacher 
of Greek and Latin in an academy then just founded by 
the Friends. When the revolution was about to begin 
he became a merchant ; but as he was a tory, it was an 
unlucky venture, for the whigs would not trade with 
him. After the war he again became a pedagogue, 
and remained one until 1791, when he gave up teaching 
to complete his history. 

Robert Proud was a reticent man and has left few 
memorials of his life. It is impossible to say when and 
how he began to write history, but it is certain that he 
was collecting materials for such a task soon after his 
arrival in the colony. Considerable progress had been 
made when the war began, but the work was laid aside 
because the author saw that it was no time for the 
people to think about their history. Six years after 
work was resumed, the first volume was published in 
1797, the second followed in 1798. 

In colonial days Philadelphia was noted for its 
progress iti science; but in "polite and elegant" litera- 
ture, its position was below that of Boston. From 
his surroundings Proud could have got little stimulus. 

^ Hazard wrote In 1784 : "Yes, honest Anthony Benezet is dead, and in 
my opinion this State lost one of her most valuable citizens when he died. 
I believe no man ever died here who was more universally or more justly 
beloved : he was truly a Friend who embraced all mankind in the arms of 
his benevolence." "Belknap Papers," II, 356 ("Coll." Mass. Histl. Soc, 
Ser. V, Vol. II). 


Indeed, the state of Pennsylvania cannot be said to 
have shown great interest in the writing of its own 
history. Populous and wealthy as it is, it can be 
asserted that the book written by Robert Proud, a 
poor schoolmaster who struggled hard against an in- 
different public attitude, is the best in scholarship 
and appreciation of the task before the writer that has 
yet been produced. This does not mean that the book 
has no serious faults : the style is heavy and lacking in 
proportion, and many things are ignored which a 
modern historian would treat ; but there is an abun- 
dance of accurate statement, with some valuable docu- 
ments and every mark of sincerity and industry. It 
was a drab book, too colorless even for the Quakers 
themselves. The author's returns for his labor were 
so small that he repudiated in disgust the career of 
historian, leaving incomplete the narrative, which the 
end of the second volume interrupted at the year 1742. 

3. Popular Historical Writers 

From books like Proud 's let us now turn to a class 
of writings that posterity treats with too much con- 
tempt, — if posterity would understand how history 
writing has developed in this democratic country. I 
refer to some popular books, slight things in them- 
selves, but satisfactory to the peo'ple who lived when 
they were published. 

It has been remarked that our revolution was unlike 
that of the French in its effect on literature : the com- 


parison is unjust to us. In France we have to do with 
an old and highly civilized nation whose natural forces, 
long kept down by outward social forms, burst forth 
into great activity when the old order was changed. 
In the United States society was new. The majority 
of the people who in 1776 took hold of the reins of gov- 
ernment were those whose ancestors came to the 
country two generations earlier in humble stations. 
They had been left to wrestle with the ruder problems 
of nature, such as clearing the land, building roads, 
amassing fortunes, and creating the elementary pro- 
cesses of self-government. They were in no condition 
to take up the literary and artistic life. They liked 
their own history, but their taste was not discriminat- 
ing ; and while a few scholarly men wrote some serious 
books for the small class of men who could appreciate 
them, the mass of the people demanded something far 
less respectable. To satisfy them was created a class 
of books, widely read at the time, which to-day we 
throw aside as rubbish. 

Of them the most notable were books written by 
Mason Locke Weems, who began life as rector of a 
parish in Maryland. It was not the profession for 
which nature had fitted him. In a later phase of our 
society he might have become a successful writer of 
short stories, but there was no career for a man in that 
field when he came upon the stage. Parson he was by 
mere force of convention. It took little time to show 
that he was not suited for his calling, and he became a 


writer of religious tracts and popular biography. His 
first tract, "Onania," seems to have created trouble for 
him. It wasmot thought becoming in a clergyman to 
write such a thing. In 1799 he wrote another, "The 
Philanthropist," circulating them both in his own 
parish and in nearby regions. Without a regular sta- 
tion he now began a series of journeys that took him 
from Maryland to Georgia, selling his own and other 
books, and preaching where he got an opportunity. 
He was a curious combination of preacher and buffoon, 
a fiddler for a country dance or a minister preaching in 
any church, chapel, country-house, tavern, or bar-room 
that he came across. His facile wit, vigorous figures, 
and rather coarse illustrations made him popular with 
a class of people who nearly a century later were to 
find attractive the sermons of some of our unconven- 
tional evangelists. Discovering the extent of his 
power in this field, he seems to have resolved to 
make the most of it. Some of his tracts had very large 
sales. Among them we find such suggestive titles as 
"The Bad Wife's Looking-Glass," "God's Revenge 
against Murder," "God's Revenge against Adultery," 
"The Drunkard's Looking-Glass," and "Hymen's Re- 
cruiting Sergeant, orlthe Matrimonial Tat-too for old 
Bachelors." These titles were evidently employed to 
secure the attention of a rough and ready people, the 
middle and lower class of society in the South. Read- 
ing the tracts themselves we find that they do not con- 
tain such extreme matter as we might expect. No 


one knew better than Weems how to get the hearing of 
the people whom he wished to reach, an art which 
many historians of greater abiHty may well study in 
his pages. 

Weems's purpose was to make money and to teach 
morality. Probably he realized that the people to 
whom he appealed liked nothing more than to be 
preached to. This purpose found free expression in 
his biographies, the first of which was a "Life of Wash- 
ington," published in 1800, within a year after the 
death of the first president. The work was poor at 
best, but the first edition was very trivial. In 1804 he 
brought it out in a larger form, and incorporated in it 
the well known stories of the cherry tree and the 
cabbage-bed. The book was well suited to reach the 
class to which he catered, and its sale was enormous. 
Along every road in the country it was owned and 
read in the farm-houses. No one knows how many 
were sold, but the number of editions is estimated at 
from forty to seventy. It was followed by biographies 
of Francis Marion, Benjamin Franklin, and William 
Penn. All were full of inaccuracies. In fact, no 
writer of biography in America ever drew more freely 
on his imagination in composing his books. What he 
did not know he invented, if it seemed good to him. His 
works are utterly worthless as books of fact ; but he 
drew vivid pictures of what he thought Washington, 
Franklin, and Marion ought to be. He sought in his 
biographies to make virtue attractive, to create real 


respect for the heroes of the revolution and to make 
men value the liberties of Americans. Probably he 

Weems was adjusted to a stage of our literary devel- 
opment now happily in the past. To praise him for 
his good qualities can no longer incite the younger his- 
torians to imitate his defects. The present age is 
too well convinced of the need of good judgment and 
accurate statement in writing historical narratives to 
make it probable that any writer would assume to 
offer it such a compound of truth and fiction as 
Weems offered his readers a hundred years ago. We 
run no risk, therefore, in admitting that he had a re- 
markable faculty of reaching the popular mind and 
forming the ideals of a class who otherwise would have 
remained ignorant of certain historical characters. 

In the class of popular works designed to teach his- 
tory we must rank Washington Irving's "History of 
New York from the beginning of the World to the End 
of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich Knickerbocker," 
the first edition of which appeared in 1809. It was 
confessedly a burlesque, but it was written with such 
a clear insight into the character of the Dutch settlers 
that it gave its readers a fairly acceptable impression 
of their lives and mental attitude. It was widely read 
and stimulated interest in real history. It was a fore- 
cast of Irving's powers in a better sort of history, a 
prophecy which he redeemed in such works as "The 
History of the Life and Voyages of Columbus" (3 vols., 


1828), the "Conquest of Granada" (1829), "The Al- 
hambra" (1832), the "Voyages of the Companions of 
Columbus" (1831), "Astoria" (2 vols., 1836), the 
"Adventures of Captain Bonneville" (1837), "Ma- 
homet and his Successors" (1849), and the "Life of 
Washington" (5 vols., 1855-1859). His clear and 
well-proportioned narrative, coupled with enough ac- 
curacy to satisfy the age in which he wrote, made him 
a force for good historical interest in the first half of 
the nineteenth century. 

Of course, he far surpassed Weems in literary ability. 
Irving appealed to men of culture, Weems to men of 
untutored minds. Between the two stands a New 
England Woman, Mrs. Mercy Otis Warren, sister of 
James Otis, and author of the most popular book in 
the field of American history in her own section. Her 
"History of the American Revolution" (3 vols., 1805) 
was loosely written, but it appealed to the taste of a 
people who were fairly well schooled in sober thinking 
by the village ministers and the public schools of the 
day. It was enlivened by biographical sketches, but 
was wholly uncritical. 

We should not ignore the popular historians, if we 
wish to understand the growth of history. They show 
us in what manner popular taste has limited the per- 
formance of the historian. In Weems we have it 
working in its worst form. Books like his in the 
present day could not have vogue in any part of the 
country. Washington Irving, on the contrary, repre- 


sents popular history at its highest stage. Some of 
his books will be read years hence for their clear and 
well-proportioned statement. History as a literary art 
must ever have a vital relation with the book-buying 
public, and the wise historian will give a portion of his 
energy to discovering how he may reach the reader. 

4. Jeremy Belknap and Ebenezer Hazard 
Within the period just after the revolution we find 
two men with so much of the modern spirit in them 
that they deserve separate and large notice. One was 
an industrious and impartial gatherer of information 
who presented it to his readers with a fine sense of pro- 
portion and ease of expression. The other was a col- 
lector of historical documents at the time when there 
was nothing to encourage him in the task but his own 
devotion to history. Though one was born in Boston 
and the other in Philadelphia, and one graduated at 
Harvard and the other at Princeton, and though they 
lived remote from one another, they were drawn to- 
gether by similarity of taste, supported one another in 
their individual efforts, and left a correspondence which 
throws much light on the conditions under which his- 
torians worked in their day. 

In the beginning I will confess that I make no claim 
that Hazard is of first rank among the historians. 
But he had the modern spirit, and the collection of 
documents he published was made on the best prin- 
ciples. It came to an untimely suspension, like Stith's 


*' History of Virginia," because the public would not 
buy it. But it remained an excellent example for 
future scholars, and by virtue of its priority it gives 
the editor the first place in a long line of scholarly 
editors and compilers. Although he repudiated litera- 
ture and became a successful business man in Phila- 
delphia, he deserves to have his work in his preferred 
field commemorated in a sketch like this. 

Jeremy Belknap was born in Boston, June 4, 1744. 
His father dressed leather and sold furs : his mother 
was a niece of the celebrated Boston minister, Matthew 
Byles. They were highly esteemed in the town, and 
though poor were able to send their son to Harvard, 
where he graduated at the age of eighteen, an age at 
which our own young men are still in the Freshman 
Class. His parents desired him to preach, but he held 
off for some time because he did not feel a call for the 
ministry. At last he felt "a hope in Christ," as he put 
it, and in 1766 became assistant pastor of the church 
in Dover, New Hampshire. He had one hundred 
pounds a year for salary and one hundred and fifty 
pounds additional in lieu of a house and garden. In 
1767 he married Ruth Eliot, daughter of a prosperous 
Boston bookseller. 

Belknap remained at Dover as assistant pastor and 
pastor until 1786. He was not a famous preacher and 
he was disposed to make more of conversion than some 
of his parishioners liked. Eventually he found the 
congregation divided and his salary in arrears. More- 


over, the colonial currency was depreciated, and alto- 
gether his financial situation was distressing. He 
fought valiantly for his rights, and at last a compro- 
mise was made by which he received a note for the 
arrears, signed on behalf of the congregation by one of 
his own supporters. He was in debt for a house he had 
built and assigned this note in payment of the obliga- 
tion. When it was due the creditor could not collect 
and had the guarantor arrested for debt. To save his 
friend Belknap assumed responsibility for the note but 
proceeded to bring matters to an issue with his con- 
gregation. He preached them a sermon in which his 
whole experience was recounted and closed with the 
statement that he released the church from all it owed 
him, claiming on his own part that he considered him- 
self released from his obligation to serve them. The 
agreement between a minister and congregation in 
early New England was a two-sided bargain and each 
was understood to have a sort of property right against 
the other. When a minister wished to leave it was not 
a mere matter of resigning : he must have a voluntary 
discharge of his obligation to serve. 

Belknap did not venture to leave outright. He re- 
mained for the time, but announced that it was on a 
voluntary basis. Had he left outright, he would have 
been charged with breach of contract. Now followed 
some cross playing, the pastor fencing well. The con- 
gregation finally asked if he would renew his contract 
if paid up in full and given a release. He replied 


that he would tell them what he would do after the 
contract was released; and they were thus finally 
brought to hand him his discharge. It was a mo- 
ment of triumph for him, and he sent them a letter in 
which was a plain piece of his mind. It closed with 
the announcement that he would leave the parish. 
Belknap's position was now serious. He had six 
children and no other dependence for their support 
than his own efiforts. Temporary engagements at va- 
rious churches afforded a slender income for a few 
months while friends formed plans for his future. One 
of them was that he should establish a classical school 
in Boston; a scheme which he rejected on the ground 
that he was not suited to the life of a pedagogue. 
Another was to move to Philadelphia and assume the 
editorship of the Columbian Magazine, the position to 
pay him a salary of one hundred pounds a year with 
twenty pounds additional to prepare the historical sec- 
tion of an "Annual Register" which Matthew Carey 
proposed to establish. He might have accepted this 
offer, made through the kind offices of his friend 
Hazard ; but before it reached him he had accepted a 
call to become the pastor of the Federal Street church 
in Boston. It was early in 1787 that he settled in his 
new field of labor, where he was to spend the rest of 
his life. It was a quiet church, supporting its pastor 
in comfort and allowing him time for the literary duties 
for which he was well fitted. But it demanded most 
of his time, and it is interesting to speculate on the in- 


fluence he might have exerted on letters if he had been 
free to give all his time to their pursuit. 

Belknap's fondness for history was manifested in his 
early youth. While at college he wrote in his common- 
place book this sentence showing his early bent : 
"There are required so many qualifications and accom- 
plishments in an Historian, and so much care and 
niceness in writing an history that some have reckoned 
it one of the most difficult labors human nature is capable 
o/." At Dover he came into contact with Governor 
Wentworth, of New Hampshire, who allowed him 
access to valuable historical papers. The governor 
seems to have felt that he had put the young minister 
under obligations and asked him to assume the educa- 
tion of a favorite nephew at liberal compensation, say- 
ing that the pressure of public business made it impos- 
sible for him to conduct the task himself. To him 
Belknap sent a polite but spirited refusal, saying : "If, 
to use your Excellency's words, you 'find the utter 
impossibility of your having sufiicient time to under- 
take so important and interesting a charge' by reason 
of the public business with which our gracious sov- 
ereign hath entrusted your Excellency, I may justly 
hope to stand excused in your view from engaging in 
that which would in any measure hinder me from 
faithfully discharging the trust committed to me by 
the Supreme Ruler." This was said in 1770, but it 
was worthy of the spirit of 1776, which Belknap shared 
as fully as any other New Englander. 


His sense of loyalty to his profession was soon at- 
tacked from another quarter. To Captain Waldron, a 
friend on whose judgment he relied, he wrote in 1772 : 
"You cannot help having observed in me an inquisi- 
tive disposition in historical matters. I find it so 
strong and powerful, and withal so increasing with my 
opportunities for gratifying it, that it has become a 
question with me, whether I might not freely indulge 
it, with a view to the benefit of my fellow men, as well 
as for my own improvement. As it is natural for us 
to inquire into the ancient state and circumstances of 
the place of our abode, and to entertain a peculiar fond- 
ness for siich inquiries in preference to more foreign 
matters, so I have applied myself in some leisure hours 
(making it of late my principal amusement) to learn 
what I can from printed books and manuscripts, and 
the information of aged and intelligent persons, of the 
former state and affairs of this town and province." 
Captain Waldron's reply is not preserved, but we know 
his correspondent did not relinquish his interest in 
local history. 

He took great interest in the measures of the colo- 
nists against the policy of Great Britain restricting 
action of the colonies. He wrote an appeal to the 
inhabitants of New Hampshire in behalf of the town 
of Boston, when it began to feel the effects of the 
operation of the Boston Port Bill. In the same year, 
1774, he wrote a stinging address to British soldiers 
then in Boston. "Gentlemen, I pity you," he ex- 


claimed. "What have you done to deserve such dis- 
grace ? You are sent over into America for the mean- 
est and basest purposes ; to terrify the wretched in- 
habitants of this oppressed town with the apprehension 
of being murdered in the streets in some insignificant 
night brawl, and to check that noble spirit which once 
animated their predecessors to brave every danger, to 
secure liberty and peace to their posterity, and which 
still breathes in our present exertions to the same 
worthy and virtuous purposes." When news of the 
battle of Lexington reached him he was at the ferry 
midway between Dover and Portsmouth. Without a 
moment's delay he set out for Boston to get his aged 
parents out of the town before the lines were estab- 
lished around it. He accomplished his object with 
some diflSculty, and his parents spent the rest of their 
days in his home at Dover. 

Before the war was over he had ample time to carry 
forward his studies in local history; and in 1784 he 
published in Philadelphia, at his own expense, the first 
volume of his "History of New Hampshire." In the 
preface he tells how the author came to undertake his 
task. "Having met with some valuable manuscripts 
which were but little known, he began to extract and 
methodize the principal things in them ; and this em- 
ployment was (to speak in the style of a celebrated 
modern author) his 'hobby-horse.' The work, crude 
as it was, being communicated to some gentlemen, to 
whose judgment he paid much deference, he was per- 


suaded ai^d encouraged to go on with his collection, 
until the thing became generally known, and a publica- 
tion could not decently be refused." The sales of the 
book were so poor that Belknap felt little encourage- 
ment to go on with it ; but after he moved to Boston he 
took it up again, and published a second volume in 
1791 and a third in 1792. 

Of this book de Tocqueville said: "The reader of 
Belknap will find more general ideas and more strength 
of thought, than are to be met with in any other 
American historians, even to the present day." The 
book, in fact, remains to-day one of the best state his- 
tories we have. It has both form and matter, and it 
is written in thorough dependence on original authori- 
ties. Washington, when he met the author, said: "I 
am indebted to you, sir, for the 'History of New Hamp- 
shire,' and it has given me great pleasure." 

The publication of the history was carefully super- 
vised by Hazard, who had influence in Philadelphia. 
By the same means Belknap was invited to become a 
contributor to the Columbian Magazine, then the best 
of such publications in the United States, and in this 
periodical appeared some of his best pieces. Among 
them was a series of satirical letters, afterwards pub- 
lished with the title, "The Foresters, an American 
Tale, being a sequel to the History of John Bull the 
Clothier." That he could so well hit off the foibles 
of each side of an ancient controversy, shows his im- 
partiality and his fitness for higher things than the 


existing state of literature warranted in our new coun- 
try. To illustrate the character of the satire a cita- 
tion is made here from the third letter, which under- 
takes to show how "John Codline quarrels with Roger 
Carrier, and turns him out of doors." "Codline" was 
made to stand for the orthodox Puritan, and the name 
suggests the figure of the Rev. John Cotton, while 
"Roger Carrier" represents the founder of Providence 
Plantation. Says the satirist : 

"It happened that Roger had taken a fancy to dip his head 
into water, as the most effectual way of washing his face, and 
thought it could not be made so clean in any other way. John, 
who used the common way of taking water in his hand to wash 
his face, was displeased with Roger's innovation, and remonstrated 
against it. The remonstrance had no other effect than to fix 
Roger's opinion more firmly; and as a further improvement on 
his plan, he pretended that no person ought to have his face washed 
till he was capable of doing it himself, without any assistance 
from his parents. Jolm was out of patience with this addition, 
and plumply told him that, if he did not reform his principles and 
practice, he would fine him, or flog him, or kick him out of doors. 
These threats put Roger on inventmg other odd and whimsical 
opinions. He took offence at the letter X, and would have it 
expunged from the alphabet, because it was the shape of a cross, 
and had a tendency to produce Popery. He would not do his 
duty at a military muster, because there was X in the colors. 
After a while he began to scruple the lawfulness of bearing arms 
and killing wild beasts. But poor fellow ! — the worst of all was, 
that being seized with a shaking-palsey, which affected every limb 
and joint of him, his speech was so altered tliat he was unable to 
pronounce certain letters and syllables as he had been used to do. 
These oddities and defects rendered him more and more disagree- 
able to his old friend, who, however, kept his temper as well as he 
could, till one day, as John was saymg a long grace over his meat 


Roger kept his hat on the whole time. As soon as the ceremony 
was over John took up a ease-knife from the table, and gave- Roger 
a blow on the ear with the broad side of it ; then with a quick, 
rising stroke turned off his hat. Roger said nothing, but, taking 
up his hat, put it on again ; at which Jolin broke out into such a 
passionate speech as this : ' You impudent scoundrel ! is it come to 
this.? Have I not borne with your whims and fidgets these 
many years, and yet they grow upon you ? Have I not talked 
with you time after time, and proved to you as plain as the nose 
in your face, that j^our notions are wrong .^^ Have I not ordered 
you to leave them off, and warned you of the consequences ; and 
yet you have gone on from bad to worse ? You began with dipping 
your head into water, and would have all the family do the same, 
pretending there was no other way of washing the face. You 
would have had the children go dirty all their days, under pretense 
that they were not able to wash their own faces, and so they must 
have been as filthy as the pigs till they were grown up. Then 
you would talk your own balderdash lingo, thee and thou, and nan 
forsooth; and now you must keep your hat on when I am at my 
devotions ; and I suppose would be glad to have the whole family 
do the same ! There is no bearing with you any longer ; so now, 
hear me, I give you fair warning : if you don't mend your manners, 
and retract your errors, and promise reformation, I'll kick you 
out of the house. I'll have no such refractory fellows here. I 
came into this forest for reformation, and reformation I will have.' 

"'Friend John', said Roger, 'dost not thou remember, when 
thou and I lived together in friend Bull's family, how hard thou 
didst think it to be compelled to look on thy book all the time that 
the hooded chaplain was reading the prayers, and how many 
knocks and thumps thou and I had for offering to use our liberty, 
which we thought we had a right to do.-^ Didst thou not come 
hitherunto for the sake of enjoying thy liberty ? and did not I 
come to enjoy mine.'^ Wherefore, then, dost thou assume to 
deprive me of the right which thou claimest for thyself ? ' 

"'Don't tell me', answered John, 'of right and of liberty; 
you have as much liberty as any man ought to have. You have 
liberty to do right, and no man ought to have liberty to do wrong.' 


"'Who is to be judge', replied Roger, 'of what is right or 
what is wrong? Ought not I to judge for myself? Or thinkest 
thou it is thy place to judge for me ? ' 

'"Who is judge?' said John, 'why, the hook is to judge; 
and I have proved by the book over and over again, that you are 
wrong; and therefore you are wrong, and you have no liberty to 
do anything but what is right.' 

"'But, friend John', said Roger, 'who is to judge whether thou 
hast proved my opinions or conduct to be wrong — thou or I ? ' 

"'Come, come', said John, 'not so close, neither; none of your 
idle distinctions. I say you are in the wrong ; I have proved it, 
and you know it. You have sinned against your own conscience, 
and therefore you deserve to be cut off as an incorrigible heretic' 

"'How dost thou know', said Roger, 'that I have sinned against 
my own conscience ? Canst thou search the heart ? ' 

"At this John was so enraged that he gave him a smart kick 
and bade him begone out of his house, and off his lands, and called 
after him to tell him, that, if ever he should catch him there again 
he would knock his brains out." 

When we read John's speeches we are apt to feel that 
he is talking sense ; and when we read those of Roger, 
we agree that he is right. Probably it is a little better 
to say that Roger was generally right but tiresome 
and that John was generally wrong but sensible. In 
these days the average reader knows so little about the 
ancient disputes of the churches that the majority of 
intelligent people would probably fail to see the clever 
points in "The Foresters" ; but such was not the case 
in New England a hundred years ago. Belknap, al- 
though a minister, was also a literary man ; and in this 
satire we seem to see the latter side of his nature mak- 
ing faces at his black coat, uttering the jibes he cannot 


repress for the life of him. Had he followed his bent 
for satire in a calling less theological, he would be 
down in the text-books of to-day as one of our prominent 
early literary men. 

But Belknap himself would have disclaimed the title 
of satirist, preferring that of historian. In his re- 
searches among documents it early occurred to him 
that a collection should be made of the lives of dis- 
tinguished Americans, a thing then unattempted. He 
began to collect materials for such a work, but became 
discouraged and urged Hazard to carry out the plans 
he had outlined. He was, he said, "confined, as Pope 
says, 'to lead the life of a cabbage,' unable to stir from 
the spot where I am planted," and he thought his 
friend had better facilities and more leisure for doing 
the work. Hazard, however, refused to take it up, 
since he had a larger task on his hands. After he went 
to Boston to live Belknap recurred to the scheme, 
writing the sketches which appeared in two volumes in 
1794, with the title, "American Biography." The per- 
sons treated were mostly early colonial worthies and 
explorers of the American continent. In view of the 
materials available and the standards of the times, the 
sketches were done with remarkable success. It was 
on Belknap's foundation that Jared Sparks, a genera- 
tion later, laid the plans for his popular "Library of 
American Biography." 

It was through the many-sided activity of Jeremy 
Belknap that our oldest existing historical society came 


into existence. While collecting materials for his 
"History" from collections in private hands, he was 
impressed with the danger that these collections might 
be swept away by fire or lost through carelessness. 
The loss of most of Prince's library in the Old South 
Church was an appealing example of what might 
happen to other small collections. His first idea to 
meet the danger was to have duplicate copies of valu- 
able papers and keep them in different places, and this 
plan seems to have been in his mind when he moved to 
Boston in 1787. He soon saw fit to change it for a 
society with a great collection safely kept. He secured 
the co-operation of four others, William Tudor, Rev. 
John Eliot, Rev. Peter Thacher, all of Boston, and 
James Winthrop, of Cambridge. In 1790 these men 
and five others held preliminary meetings to form a 
general plan of the Massachusetts Historical Society. 
January 24, 1791, they met at the residence of William 
Tudor in the first regular meeting. After adopting a 
constitution the society adjourned. At its second meet- 
ing each member handed in a list of books, pamphlets, 
and manuscripts he was willing to give to establish 
the nucleus of the collection it was proposed to build 
up. From that time to this it has been a principle 
well accepted by all the members of the society that 
they are to build up the collections in its possession. 
At first the membership was limited to thirty, but in 
1794, when the legislature granted a charter, the num- 
ber was enlarged to sixty; and it has since been in- 


creased. In the first years of the society's existence, 
when its vitality was slight, most of the work of keep- 
ing it going fell on Belknap. It was through his effort 
that the first volume of its "Collections" appeared in 
1792, a series in which have been published more 
original and valuable materials than in any other in 
the United States. Of all Belknap did for history it is 
probable that the impetus he gave to found the Massa- 
chusetts Historical Society is his best service. 

Ebenezer Hazard was born in Philadelphia in 1744, 
and died in the same city in 1817. His father was well 
known arnong the business men of the place and was 
able to send the boy to Princeton, where he graduated 
in 1762, the same year that Belknap graduated from 
Harvard. He settled in New York, where he became 
connected with a firm of booksellers, remaining in that 
business until 1775. He was an ardent supporter of 
the revolution, and in 1775 became post-master in 
New York, under the authority of the committee of 
safety. The arrival of the British army on Long 
Island brought him an order immediately to "remove 
his office to some convenient place near Dobb's Ferry, 
till further orders." The command was obeyed with 
alacrity. In 1777 he was appointed surveyor of the 
post throughout the eastern part of the United States. 
In 1782 he was made postmaster-general, succeeding 
Richard Bache, who had followed Benjamin Franklin 
in that office. In this position he remained until the 
government under the federal constitution went into 


operation. He would have been pleased to continue 
under that regime, but he was put aside to give 
place to a man who had more political friends than 
he. He then sought other government employment 
and disappointed in this respect retired to private 

It was while he was surveyor of the post that he 
began to collect historical materials. July 11, 1778, 
he petitioned congress for their patronage in making 
a collection of American State Papers. He proposed 
to visit each state and wished aid in the form of 
recommendations to the various states, so that he 
might be allowed access to their public documents. 
The petition was referred to a committee consisting of 
Richard Henry Lee, William Duer, and Samuel Adams, 
which recommended that Hazard be allowed to have 
copies of papers in federal oflBces at the expense of 
the public and that he be allowed one thousand dollars 
for making copies. The report was adopted by con- 
gress ; but in what respect the sum mentioned was 
used does not appear.^ While surveyor he traveled 
much, and it is certain that he used his leisure while 
on these journeys to make copies of records. After 
he retired from the post office he gave himself to the 
preparation of these documents for publication. In 

1 See Journals of the Continental Congress (Library of Congress edition), 
XI, 682, 705. Also "Belknap Papers," I, 13 ("Colls." Mass. Histl. Soc, 
Ser. V, Vol. II). Belknap complained that the states did not furnish him 
copies of manuscript material, as suggested by congress, and that he had 
to pay for all he got. 


1792 he brought out the first volume of his "Historical 
Collections," and a second in 1794. In the first of 
these two large volumes were many miscellaneous docu- 
ments on the periods of discovery and early coloniza- 
tion, and in the second were the records of the New 
England Confederation. Although superseded by later 
and more complete collections, Hazard's documents 
were for the time excellently selected and reproduced. 
He began with the purpose of carrying his work into 
several volumes ; but the sale of the two which were 
published was so disappointing that he gave up the 
enterprise. He then embarked in the insurance busi- 
ness, in Philadelphia, in which he attained solid pros- 
perity until his death in 1817. His son, Samuel 
Hazard, published the "Register of Pennsylvania" (16 
vols.) and other valuable collections. 

It was in 1779 that the correspondence between 
Hazard and Jeremy Belknap began. The latter, an- 
chored in a provincial town, looked upon the much- 
traveled Hazard as a happy exponent of the life of the 
historical scholar ; and Hazard recognized in the 
superior mind of the minister an attractive kindred 
spirit. They wrote frequent letters, each pouring out 
his soul, seeking advice, or offering aid as opportunity 
or necessity offered. Both men were interested in 
what at that time was called science. Unusual stones 
were exchanged and deposited in museums, or "cabi- 
nets," as the term of the day ran. For example, as- 
bestos excited their curiosity much. A story of a 


musical prodigy in England who could play the organ 
at three years of age was written down and sent by 
Belknap to his friend as a thing worth noting. Sibe- 
rian wheat and barley aroused much interest at a time 
when most intelligent Americans were concerned with 
the introduction into their own country of all kinds of 
superior plants and vegetables. Hazard was able to 
collect newspapers in connection with the post oflBce 
and sent many of them to Dover, where a periodical 
from a distant place was very welcome. 

He took upon himself to secure the apprenticeship of 
Belknap's oldest son to Robert Aitken, whom he called 
the best printer in the country. About the same time 
Hazard made arrangements with Aitken to do the 
printing and binding of the first volume of the "History 
of New Hampshire," and circulated subscription lists 
in its behalf. He could not have shown more interest 
in the project if he had been the author himself. The 
appearance of the first volume gave him much pleasure 
and he wrote in his eagerness urging that the second 
be prepared for the printer at once. His suggestion 
elicited the following reply : 

"I fully intend it, and have already begun to collect and com- 
pile; but considering the situation I am in, and the many duties 
that are required of me as a son, a husband, a father, a pastor 
and a friend, and making allowance for foreseen and unforeseen 
impediments arising out of the nature of the work, it is not a 
supposable case that a second volume can be got ready for the 
press in less than two, or perhaps three, years from this time. 
The other cost me, off and on, nine or ten years. I know that it 


might be run through in a much shorter time by a Grub Street 
Gazetteer, who would take everything on trust and had materials 
ready prepared." 

Referring to the statement of Dr. Johnson that "no 
writer has a more easy task than the historian," Bel- 
knap went on to say : 

"If he had to write the History of a country, and to search for 
his materials wheresoever they were likely or not likely to be found ; 
if he was to find that the 'treasures' contained in 'records' are to 
be explained by private papers, and that these are to be sought 
in the garrets and rat-holes of old houses, when not one in a hun- 
dred that he was obliged to handle and decipher would repay him 
for the trouble; that 'tradition', whatever it might 'pour down', 
is always to be suspected and examined ; and that the means of 
examination are not always to be obtained, — in short, if he had to 
go through the drudgery which you and I are pretty tolerably 
acquainted with, and to humour the passions of those we are 
obliged to, all the while, he would be fully sensible that to write an 
History as it should be is not so easy a work." ^ 

When we remember that this was written at the 
time when Gordon and Ramsay were drawing hber- 
ally on Dodsley's "Annual Register" for their histories 
of the revolution, we shall be able to understand how 
much ahead of their time were Belknap and Hazard 
in their conception of the historian's art. 

In the early part of his literary career Belknap ap- 
pears as the novice leaning on the superior knowledge 
of Hazard, the man of the city and friend of editors 
and publishers. But after he settled in Boston and 
began to be in demand the relation was reversed. 

1 "Belknap Papers,"!, 294 ("Coll." Mass. Histl. Soc, Ser. V, Vol. II). 


Hazard, out of his position as postmaster and embark- 
ing in the field of history himself, nov>r looked to the 
more experienced, and really more able, Belknap for 
advice and encouragement. He was not disappointed. 
Belknap tried to sell his friend's "Historical Collec- 
tions" in Boston and gave comfort as he could when 
the task proved difficult. The two men remained 
friends until death took away the Boston minister in 
1798. At that time Hazard had already relinquished 
his designs in authorship, and was making money in 

Judged by what they wrote these two men did not 
produce a considerable number of important books. 
Nor did they begin an influence of great magnitude 
that passed continuously into their successors. After 
they were gone it was nearly a quarter of a century 
before we had historians in this country to be com- 
pared with them. They are to be considered sporadic 
manifestations of genius, who worked according to 
their richly endowed natures, following the gifts they 
had received at birth, seeking truth earnestly and in- 
dustriously, and feeling that they were compelled by 
duty to record it as they could. Of the two, Belknap 
was the best historian. His sparkling wit,^ so abun- 

'The following poem, often republished a century ago, was probably 
written by Jeremy Belknap, although attributed to his wife. It illustrates 
his facility in writing humorous satire. 

The Pleastires of a Country Life 
"Up in the morning I must rise 
Before I've time to rub my eyes. 


dantly exemplified in his correspondence, and his 
facihty in expression, relieve his tendency to dwell on 
facts merely, and we cannot but think that in a more 
favorable age or environment he would have developed 
into a leading light of literature. He was a rare spirit 
set in a new and unformed world, doing his task well 
and overriding limitations that many a man in more 
conventionalized surroundings would not have sur- 

5. Early Histories of the United States 

The first writers to attempt to treat all the colonies 
as a whole were two Englishmen. The first was John 
Oldmixon, who as early as 1707 made a sorry attempt 
to write a history of the British colonies in America. 

With half-pinned gown, unbuckled shoe, 
I haste to milk my lowing cow. 
But, Oh ! it makes my heart to ake, 
I have no bread till I can bake. 
And then, alas ! it makes me sputter. 
For I must churn or have no butter. 
The hogs with swill too I must serve ; 
For hogs must eat or men will starve. 
Besides, my spouse can get no cloaths. 
Unless I much offend my nose. 
For all that try it know it's true 
There is no smell like colouring blue. 
Then round the parish I must ride 
And make enquiry far and vade 
To find some girl that is a spinner. 
Then hurry home to get my dinner. 

"If with romantic steps I stray 
Around the fields and meadows gay. 


The other was George Chalmers, an able writer, who 
published his "Political Annals of the Present United 
Colonies" in 1780 and followed it with an "Introduc- 
tion to the History of the Revolt of the American 
Colonies" four years later. He had access to British 
documents not accessible in the colonies. In feeling 
he was very British, and the Americans rejected him 

The grass, besprinkled with the dews. 
Will wet my feet and rot my shoes. 
If on a mossy bank I sleep. 
Pismires and crickets o'er me creep. 
Or near the purling rill am seen 
The dire mosquitos pierce my skin. 
Yet such delights I seldom see 
Confind to house and family. 

"All summer long I toil and sweat. 
Blister my hands, and scold and fret. 
And when the summer work is o'er. 
New toils arise from Autumn's store. 
Corn must be husk'd, and pork be kill'd. 
The house with all confusion fiU'd. 
O could you see the grand display 
Upon our annual butchering day, — 
See me look like ten thousand sluts. 
My kitchen spread with grease and guts, — 
You'd lift your hand surpris'd and swear 
That Mother Trisket's self were there. 

"Yet starch'd up folks that live in town. 
That lounge upon your beds till noon. 
That never tire yourselves with work. 
Unless with handling knife and fork. 
Come, see the sweets of country life, 
Display'd by Parson B 's wife." 

See "Belknap Papers," III, id28, note ("Coll." Mass. Histl. Soc, Ser. VI, 
Vol. IV). 


as unfair and inadequate; but he stimulated them to 
attempt a more satisfactory treatment. 

The first American historian to write an important 
general history was Rev. Abiel Holmes, who published 
the first edition of his "American Annals," in two 
volumes, in 1805. He wrote with great accuracy, but 
the style was dull and strictly annalistic. The work 
did not satisfy those who looked for a treatment 
worthy of their devotion to the newly established 
united government. Benjamin Trumbull, whose his- 
tory of Connecticut has been mentioned, next attempted 
the same ■ task. The first volume of his "General 
History of the United States of America, 1492-1792," 
carrying the story to 1765, was published in 1810. It 
was a solid piece of work without notable literary 
merit, and its success was not great enough to warrant 
its continuation. 

Next came the "Political and Civil History of the 
United States" (2 volumes, 1828), by Timothy Pitkin, 
a Connecticut lawyer. The author gave much atten- 
tion to the statistical development of the country, 
treating his subject in a colorless manner. He was 
federalist in sympathy and did not subordinate politi- 
cal feelings to truth. For a long time he was con- 
sidered the best authority on the subject. But he 
gave chief stress to the affairs of New England, and 
even the people of that section could but admit that 
he had failed in his object of writing an adequate his- 
tory of the whole country. In 1817 he published a 


"Statistical View of the Commerce of the United 
States" which is still held in high esteem. 

It was with an idea of making up the deficiencies of 
such works as Pitkin's, Trumbull's, and Holmes's that 
George Bancroft was led to begin his history. His 
sympathy for the democratic party made it certain 
that his work would not be unduly f ederalistic ; but 
he did not get beyond the colonial period. 

While Bancroft was slowly bringing out his volumes 
in the intervals of his political activity there appeared 
in Boston a writer who was about to produce a better, 
but less popular, book in the same field. This was 
Richard Hildreth, who was one of the founders of the 
Atlas, an influential newspaper of Boston. He re- 
mained with this paper from 1832 to 1840, but his 
health failing he sought a milder climate in Florida and 
in Demerara, British Guinea. Returning to the United 
States, he became a ready writer on many subjects. At 
last he entered the field of history, and in 1849 pub- 
lished in three volumes the first series of his "History 
of the United States," followed three years later, 1852, 
by the second series, also containing three volumes. 
The whole carried the story of national life down to 1820. 

Although Hildreth wrote from the New England 
standpoint, he sought to avoid sectional bias. It was 
the time of violent controversy, and he was an earnest 
opponent of slavery : but his book was nearly free 
from that kind of bias. He was, also, intent on secur- 
ing the facts of history, and to this day the student 


derives much assistance from his accurate and all-em- 
bracing statements. His book is one that a man seek- 
ing information may well have at hand as a constant 
reference for details. He wished, moreover, to strip 
our history of the Fourth-of-July cant with which an 
earnestly patriotic age had clothed it. A British re- 
viewer said of it : "We encounter the muse of American 
history descended from her stump, and recounting her 
narrative in a key adapted to our own ears." Weak- 
ness in style and the lack of the faculty of interpreting 
broad movements are, perhaps, its chief defects. 

One other New England historian remains to be 
mentioned here. Although he falls chronologically out- 
side of the limits assigned to this volume, he belongs 
in spirit to the early New Englanders. Rev. John 
Gorham Palfrey was pastor of a church in Boston, pro- 
fessor in Harvard, editor of the North American Review, 
and a prolific writer of religious and historical tracts. 
He has been called "filo-pietistic" because he was so 
much devoted to the defense of New England ideals. 
His "History of New England during the Stuart 
Dynasty" (3 vols., 1858-1864) was well received by 
New Englanders. It was, in fact, the result of much 
labor and was a learned and useful work. But it was 
a defense of Puritanism written at a time when 
men like Charles Francis Adams were beginning to 
criticize with singular sharpness the deeds and ideals of 
the former ruling class in the land of Winthrop and 
Bradford. The author wrote a continuation of his work 


with the title, "History of New England from the Revo- 
lution of the 17th Century to the Revolution of the 
18th" (2 vols., 1875-1890), the last volume being pub- 
lished with additions after his death. Realizing that 
his work was too extensive for general use, he published 
a shorter work in four volumes in 1865-1873, with the 
title "Compendious History of New England to the 
first general Congress of the Anglo-American Colonies." 
In this industrious and capacious writer, Puritanism 
found a worthy interpreter and defender. 

Most of the activities here described were in the re- 
gion directly adjacent to Boston : the reader must find 
the reason for himself. Why Philadelphia and New 
York should have lagged behind is another interesting 
subject of speculation. Why the South should have 
been left so pathetically void of literature is a question 
that has called forth anxious debate. It was evident 
to the men of the period that the South was having her 
history written by persons who, however worthy, were 
at heart not in sympathy with Southern ideals. News- 
paper editors scolded at the situation, orators cast re- 
proaches, and conventions passed resolutions, but to 
little avail. It is true that some creditable state his- 
tories appeared, like those of Dr. Hawks, on North 
Carolina; Pickett, on early Alabama; McCall, on 
Georgia ; Stevens, on Georgia ; Haywood, on Tennessee ; 
Charles Campbell, on Virginia ; Bozman, on Maryland ; 
and Broadhead, on New York. But these writers did 
not attempt large things. 


The demand in the South was for a book which 
would treat the history of the nation in such a way 
that the presidents who represented the ideals of 
Southern voters should not be held up as bunglers, and 
that the part taken by the South in the revolution and 
later should be presented with as much fullness as the 
South thought fair. It was in keeping with this de- 
mand that a leading Virginian, George Tucker, pub- 
lished his "History of the United States, to the end 
of the 26th Congress in 1841 " (4 vols., 1856-1858). It 
is not a great book, but a good one, a worthy fulfill- 
ment of the purpose which inspired its creation. Its 
misfortune was that it was offered to a people not ac- 
customed to read large and serious books, and it failed 
of its object because it was not read as widely as the 
author had a right to expect. It is known in our own 
generation chiefly through the impression it made upon 
those whose defects it was intended to offset, while the 
South has gone on reading the histories written in the 
North. Tucker was a man of learning and wrote many 
fugitive political pieces for local readers. He is also 
remembered for a valuable "Life of Thomas Jefferson" 
which appeared in two volumes in 1837. 

6. GayarrS 

In the list of state historians just given the name of 
Charles Etienne Arthur Gayarre was omitted because 
it seems to deserve separate treatment. He was born 
in New Orleans of distinguished Creole lineage in 1805. 


Educated as a lawyer, he early turned his attention to 
the history of his native state. In 1830 he published 
in French his "Essai Historique sur la Louisiane." It 
was based upon the dry collection of documents which 
Frangois Xavier Martin had published in 1827 with the 
title "History of Louisiana," but the style was greatly 
different. Assuming the manner of an old man ad- 
dressing young people and making use of the traditions 
in which Creole communities were rich, he wrote a book 
whose charms appealed to old and young alike. It 
was not sober history, but historical romance. 

In 1835 Gayarre was elected to the United States 
senate, but at the same time he developed symptoms 
of a serious disease, which sent him off to Paris for a 
course of treatment in which seven years were con- 
sumed. While in the city he took up the study of 
Louisiana history as a means of employing his other- 
wise idle hours. He secured access to the records of the 
colony in the offices of the ministry of the marine and 
colonies, and returned to New Orleans with a large 
mass of notes on his favorite subject. On this basis 
he published in 1846 and 1847 two volumes in French 
on the history of Louisiana, from the earliest days to the 
end of the French domination, 1769. 

These volumes had much of the charm that was 
in all Gayarre's writings, but being in the French 
language they were not available to the people of the 
state generally. They belonged to the people of the 
past, and they must remain in the existing form a 


sealed book to the future, since no one could doubt that 
English was to be the language of coming Louisianians. 
Reflections like these caused the author to begin his 
work over again in another tongue. 

Invited to give a popular lecture in New Orleans, he 
took for his subject "The Poetry or Romance of the 
History of Louisiana," confining himself to the deeds of 
De Soto, Father Marquette, and La Salle. The lec- 
ture was so successful that he followed the vein and in 
1848 published in the form of a series of lectures a 
volume called "Romance of the History of Louisiana," 
carrying the story of the colony, in English, as far as 
1717. In closing the volume the author said: "I 
hope I shall be forgiven for having deviated from his- 
torical truth in the preceding pages with regard to par- 
ticulars which I deemed of no importance. For in- 
stance, I changed the name of Crozat's daughter. 
Why ^ Perhaps it was owing to some capricious whim 
— perhaps there is to me some spell in the name of 
Andrea." In real life she was Marie Anne Crozat. 
The account of her death at the close of the volume is 
as dramatic a story as Sir Walter Scott himself could 
have written. There were numerous other places in 
the narrative in which his imagination was allowed to 
Have play. 

Encouraged by the success of this volume, Gayarre 
published in 1851 a second installment of "lectures" 
carrying the story to 1743. In the preface he made 
this statement: "I was informed that many had 


taken for the invention of the brain what was but his- 
torical truth set in a gilded frame, when, to use the ex- 
pression of Sir Joshua Reynolds, I had taken but in- 
significant liberties with facts, to interest my readers, 
and make my narrative more delightful, in imitation 
of the painter who, though his work is called history 
painting, gives in reality a poetical representation of 
facts." He added, however, that, profiting by expe- 
rience, he had been "more sparing of embellishments" 
in the second installment. In truth, the second series 
was less imaginative than the first, but it was still far 
too much under the sway of an errant fancy and could 
not command the confidence of readers seeking his- 
torical truth. The title of this series is "Louisiana: 
its Colonial History and Romance." ^ 

Immediately after the appearance of the second 
series came a third, carrying the story in English to 
the end of the French regime. Here again we see the 
progress of a sobering judgment. "I looked upon the 
first four lectures," he said in the preface, "as nugae 
seriae, to which I attached no more importance than a 
child does to the soap bubbles which he puffs through 
the tube of the tiny reed, picked up by him for the 
amusement of the passing hour. But struck with the 
interest which I had excited, I examined, with more 
sober thoughts, the flowery field in which I had sported, 
almost with the buoyancy of a schoolboy. Checking 
the freaks of my imagination, that boon companion 

* The first series of lectures is reprinted in this book. 


with whom I had been gamboHng, I took to the plow, 
broke the ground, and turned myself to a more serious 
and useful occupation. This is, I think, clearly ob- 
servable in the second series of Lectures. In the third 
and last series, which I now venture to lay before the 
public, change of tone and manner, corresponding with 
the authenticity and growing importance of the events 
which I have to record, will be still more perceptible." 
From that time he was measurably impressed with the 
duty of the historian to hold himself a credible witness 
of truth. 

In 1854 the three series of "lectures" referred to 
were embodied in one book and published in two vol- 
umes with the title, "History of Louisiana : The French 
Domination." At the same time Gayarre said that 
he would continue the work and treat of the Spanish 
and American dominations. Hard on the heels of the 
promise, in 1854, he published in one volume "The 
History of Louisiana : The Spanish Domination," deal- 
ing with the years 1769 to 1805. It was the best part 
of his history ; for having discarded the tendency to 
romance and confined himself to sober facts, he now 
wrote better than before ; and having more interest 
in this than in the American regime, he wrote better 
than he was to write again. The Spanish period was 
filled with political intrigue and clashing personal am- 
bition. The designs of evil men followed one another 
with tragic steps until at last the whole fabric of vio- 
lence fell before the advent of the strong and rather 


prosaic government of American democracy. This 
scene of strife was a fine field for the graphic powers 
of such a narrator as Gayarre, and he made the most 
of it. Miss Grace King well says that his account of 
it will remain "the chief standard by which emulative 
writers of Louisiana history measure their failure or 

The "American Domination" was finished, but not 
published, when the civil war broke over the country. 
It was laid aside and not given to the public until 1866. 
It was well done, but it lacked the movement of the 
preceding volumes. The Americans brought in the 
rule of democracy, and during their control, save for 
the short period during which the British were before 
New Orleans, public life was sober, economic, and 
merely political. Gayarre was not a good historian of 
the humdrum. River captains, city merchants, land 
speculators, and shrewd lawyers lost some of their 
charm in his handling when they were no longer iden- 
tified with the fine old Creole families of other days. 

The latter part of Gayarre's career was as tragic as 
the events he was so fond of describing. Easily among 
the most prominent of the older families, he was in the 
early part of his life a promising politician, being elected 
senator at thirty years of age. When he returned 
from France he wished to take his old place in the 
procession, but it was lost irretrievably. He consoled 
himself with thinking he could still live in ease and write 
history. He is described as a man of dominating 


temper, who brooked no opposition. For seven years 
he was secretary of state by the appointment of the 
governor. In 1853 he was seriously considered for the 
post of minister to Madrid, but the appointment went 
to another Louisianian, Pierre Soule. In 1860, his 
great cycle of labor finished, he made plans for a long 
period of residence in Spain at his own expense. But 
here fate intervened. He supported the confederacy 
with all the fervor of his ardent nature. He defended 
secession with his pen, living quietly on his plantation 
near New Orleans. During this period he wrote a life 
of Philip II of Spain, but the book was based on insuf- 
ficient authorities and did him no credit. The war left 
him in poverty, and he became that most unhappy of 
derelicts, an aristocratic office-seeker. In 1875 he was 
appointed reporter of the state supreme court, but 
next year the supreme court was abolished in the stern 
struggle to save the state from republican domination. 
When the court was reestablished after the triumph 
of the natives, the office of reporter was allotted to 
another man. 

In his old age — it was a long old age, for he lived to 
be ninety — Gayarre wrote many things that were not 
worthy of his fame. He tried fiction without success, 
he wrote newspaper articles on old Louisiana life, he 
gave lectures, and he rewrote in popular form some 
of the things he had incorporated in his larger work. 
Of all this group the best was "Fernando de Lemos," 
published in 1872, a narrative in fictitious manner, 


in which he really recounted scenes from his own life. 
He died in 1895, having outlived the old Southern 
regime by thirty years. As an historian he was among 
our best ; for to the capacity of research and clear com- 
position he added the faculty of graceful expression in 
a degree which few of our historians have equaled. If 
the original French impetus to high historical style 
could have been steadied in the beginning by the hand 
of some master who knew how to subordinate fancy 
to fact, he would not have been left to wander of his 
own will through the uncertain fields of romance to a 
higher ground. Self-taught in this respect, it was to 
his great credit that he at length reached the better 
style. Could he have lived in some city in which other 
historical writers furnished the stimulus of generous 
rivalry, he would probably have left a greater and more 
equal range of writing. As it was, he did enough to 
show his capacity. The South has had no other his- 
torian to whom nature was so generous of gifts. 



1. Early Activities 

Jared Sparks, who was destined to be for a long time 
the chief authority on the hfe of George Washington, 
was born in Wilhngton, Connecticut, May 10, 1789, 
ten days after the first president took the oath of office. 
He was one of the earhest citizens born under the new 
government. In his boyhood the perils of the revolu- 
tion and of the critical years that followed had been 
forgotten and our war for independence was already 
covered with romance. Patriotic and loyal to liberty 
with the peculiar intentness of the men of his day, he 
made it a sacred labor to preserve the story of the 
conflict through which liberty was established. 

His early life was full of hardships. His mother 
was a woman of the small farmer class, married to a 
man of her own rank, whom her son, Jared, dutifully 
called father. The boy was brilliant at school and 
became known as a prodigy in arithmetic, doing with 
ease the hardest sums that could be brought him. 
He taught himself the principles of navigation and 
astronomy and at the age of eighteen was a country 
schoolmaster earning eight dollars a month. When 



school was not in session he worked as a carpenter 
and studied Latin with the village minister, Rev. 
Hubbel Loomis. In this subject, progress was so 
rapid that in eight weeks from the beginning he 
was reading "Virgil" at the rate of one hundred lines 
a day. 

Such a boy was not born to build barns, nor to wield 
the birch in a village school. Through the aid of 
friends he was enabled to enter Phillips Academy, 
at Exeter, New Hampshire, from which, after two 
years of residence, he went to Harvard, in 1811, being 
then twenty-two years old and very mature for his age. 
He graduated in 1815. In the classics and mathe- 
matics he was so well grounded that the class exercises 
were but play. President Kirkland would say : 
"Sparks is not only a man, but a man and a half." 
Most of his classmates were at least six years his 
juniors, but he carried himself in such a way that he 
won their respect as well as their admiration. Much 
of his sophomore year was spent at Havre de Grace, 
Maryland, where he served as tutor in the family of a 
planter. His teaching was not heavy, and he so 
improved his time that he returned to college and took 
the examinations for the year with his class. While 
a junior he taught for ten weeks in a school at Bolton, 
Massachusetts. His diaries for these years show that 
while a student he did a prodigious amount of reading. 

After graduation he first taught a select school at 
Lancaster, reading theology in the meanwhile. Next 


he was a tutor at Harvard, teaching mathematics 
and natural history. In 1817 he was made managing 
editor of the North American Review. This periodical, 
then two years old, had for its chief reliance a group 
of men pledged to furnish articles, but the services 
of a managing editor were not light. His duty was 
to prepare the articles for the press, read the proof, 
and look after the distribution. He was a Unitarian 
in religion and had imbibed the fervor which charac- 
terized that church at this early period of its exist- 
ence. To give men a form of religious faith in which 
reason played a larger part than in the old system 
seemed to him, and to many others at Harvard, the 
great work of an educated man. He accordingly gave 
himself up to the ministry, declining a professorship 
at Bowdoin College. In 1819 came a call to become 
the Unitarian pastor in Baltimore. Vast possibilities 
seemed to open in Baltimore. For many years it had 
been well known that the planter class of the South, 
yielding to the liberal philosophy of the day, had 
been very lukewarm toward the orthodox churches. 
Was this not the opportunity for the new faith, which 
rejected the mystery of the Trinity and left men free 
to follow their intellects.^ And who could carry the 
message of enlightenment to these people better than 
one who was acknowledged the most brilliant of the 
younger men in the movement? Sparks accepted the 
call, and his friends saw his departure with the greatest 


For four years the fight was made in Baltimore, 
ably and with personal satisfaction. At the end of 
the time Unitarianism was a weak force in the city, 
and the surrounding country was no more ready to 
accept it than formerly. In fact, it is a form of faith 
that has not thriven among the Southern people. 
Sparks himself was highly esteemed in the city ; and 
he won the affection of his own flock to an unusual 
degree. His sermons were well received by all classes. 
He founded a society for the distribution of books and 
tracts, and in 1821 he established The Unitarian 
Miscellany, a monthly periodical, which attracted 
the attention of many people. Controversy sprang 
up, in which Sparks carried himself with ability and 
aggression. In 1821 he was chosen chaplain of the 
national house of representatives in a sharp contest 
in which liberalism and orthodoxy were the contend- 
ing sides. In Washington he gave his energy to the 
establishment of a Unitarian church in the capital. 
Hard work undermined his health, prolpably there 
was some discouragement because his church did not 
grow as rapidly as he had expected, and in 1823 he 
resigned his pastorate and returned to Boston. 

It is not possible to deny that by 1823 Sparks had 
lost most of his ministerial interest. This is indicated 
by the fact that when he gave up his Baltimore pas- 
torate he gave up the ministry as well. He burned his 
sermons and there is no record that he ever preached 
again. Secular interests, also, had been steadily 


creeping into his life. During his entire stay in Balti- 
more, in spite of his hard labor for his professional 
tasks, he had written steadily for the North American 
Review; and his articles in that journal were written 
in the most exact manner. For an ordinary review 
he would make careful preliminary investigation. 
Said Edward Everett, who was the editor before Sparks : 
"I am obliged to depend on myself more than on any 
other person, and I must write that which will run 
fastest. I am ashamed of this, but cannot help it.'* 
Sparks could write in no such manner. When he had 
to prepare an article he began by gathering all avail- 
able materials. It is a practice now well enough 
recognized ; but in 1823 few reviewers took so much 
pains. Sparks was too much of a literary man to be 
content with the ministry permanently. 

One of his Boston friends was William H. Eliot, 
who in the winter of 1820-1821 returned from the 
medical schools in Paris. To Sparks he wrote as 
follows : 

"Every time 1 think of your establishment at Baltimore I am 
less pleased than the last, and when I have any reason to doubt 
your recollection in addition to the distance which separates us, 
and the difference of pursuits which occupy us, I am half disposed 
to quarrel with those who sent you to this outer post of Unitarian 
warfare. What is there in your most distant prospects to repay 
you for all the sacrifices you have made and are continually making ? 
Is it the triumph of opinion over prejudice and bigotry, or the hope 
of uniting men on subjects which have divided the world ever 
since anything has been known about them? For my own part, 
I was never so indifferent as I have been since I returned from 


Europe about speculation in theology. I have seen learned and 
excellent men on opposite sides of these questions, and I do not 
find that moral principle is more powerful or energetic or elevated 
in one sect or the other of the two which divide our country. Nor 
can I believe that what is very important for us to know and under- 
stand would have been left in darkness and mystery." 

Consider this letter, also, which the same writer 
sent to Sparks over a year later : 

"How many years of exile yet remain for you ? Are you deter- 
mined to devote yourself to the propagation of Unitarianism in 
the South, and do you believe that you are serving society and 
religion more by leading such a life than in doing your part in 
forming the character of those who are to fill your place and that 
of other great men in society ? I may be deceived by my friend- 
ship for you, but I really believe that if you were to come to Cam- 
bridge and live there unconnected with College, you would do 
more good than if you made a thousand converts a day. The 
passions and vices of the mass of mankind, I fear, will always 
remain substantially the same, whatever doctrine they profess, 
but the influence of the character of one man of a fair, honest 
and intelligent mind upon such a jarring association as that at 
Cambridge would be in my opinion of incalculable value. They 
would be ashamed of their little squabbles and miserable attempts 
to injure and degrade each other in the society of such a man. 
Not that I should hope for the entire reformation of this genus 
irritabile. Ambitious men can no more be just to their rivals, 
when the object of common pursuit is literary eminence, than 
any other of the great subjects of contention in this world." ^ 

Breaking with the Boston circle for four years and 
living in a section so entirely unlike New England 
would naturally have a broadening influence on Sparks. 

1 Wm. H. Eliot to Sparks, March 15, 1821, and Nov. 21, 1822. Sparks 
MSS, Harvard Library. 


It showed him another side of Hfe. In his two years 
of service as chaplain of the house of representatives 
he was brought into association with the most distin- 
guished pubhc men. His correspondence attests the 
cordial relations he established with many of them. 
He impressed himself on their world as a man of great 
learning and ability ; and he went on his way in life 
with the advantage of a reputation among the great 
men of the land. 

In Baltimore, Sparks came into close contact with 
slavery, and it is interesting to note that his opinion 
of it was not. different from that of intelligent South- 
erners of the day. He considered it an evil to be en- 
dured. "No dream," said he in 1824, "can be more 
wild than that of emancipating slaves who are still 
to remain among us free. We unhesitatingly express 
it as our belief — and we speak from some experience 
— that the free people of color as a class in the slave- 
holding States are a greater nuisance to society, more 
comfortless, tempted to more vices, and actually less 
qualified to enjoy existence, than the slaves them- 
selves. In such a state of things manumission is no 
blessing to the slaves, while it is an evil of the most 
serious kind to the whites." ^ He belonged to a New 
England which had not yielded to the abolition cru- 
sade. He was of the group of Prescott, Motley, Ban- 
croft, and Everett, who followed literature in the pure 
devotion to it. Twenty-five years later another circle 

1 Adams, " Life and Writings of Jared Sparks," I, 247. 


dominated Boston, men who made literature the hand- 
maid of reform. 

2. Editor of the North American Review 

In the summer of 1823 Sparks returned to Boston 
without definite plans for the future. He soon began 
negotiations to purchase and edit the North American 
Review, from conducting which Edward Everett wished 
to retire. This periodical was in a hopeful state. 
Founded by William Tudor in 1815, it was supported 
by a small group of proprietors, who agreed to write for 
it and share the possible profits, in proportion to their 
contributions. Sparks while a tutor at Harvard was one 
of the group and was acting editor. When he went to 
Baltimore he was succeeded by Edward T. Channing, 
who in 1820 gave place to Edward Everett. Two 
thousand copies of the April, 1821, issue were printed, 
a considerable number of which were kept for back 

While the arrangement was fair to the contributors, 
provided there were profits to be distributed, it was 
eminently unfair in that preliminary stage in which 
the financial foundations of the enterprise were being 
laid. There were no profits in these days, but it was 
evident that the Review was becoming a paying prop- 
erty, and that the few men who wrote for it were mak- 
ing it such. Theophilus Parsons, one of the group, 
expressed himself on this point as follows : "I shall 

» Oliver Everett to Sparks, March 15, 1821. Sparks MSS. 


never write again for the N. A. without being paid 
for it, and the question of pay or not pay is now agitat- 
ing in the club. None of the owners of the book work 
but Everett and you, and I do not see sufficient reason 
for giving up the spirit of my labours to Messrs. 
Mason, Palfrey & Co. Others think with me ; and 
if I could I would spirit up every one who has written 
or can write." ^ If the Review was to prosper, it was 
time it was placed on a sound financial basis. 

The proprietors were willing to sell and August 25, 
1823, Sparks became its purchaser. To each of the five 
partners he gave $1150 and to Everett $4000 in pay- 
ment for back numbers, the subscription list, and other 
property. Including his own share, the North American 
was thus valued at $10,900. He pledged himself to 
pay $2500 at the end of the first year, $3000 at the 
end of the second, $3250 at the end of the third, and 
$1000 at the end of the fourth. Everett, with char- 
acteristic generosity, remitted the interest on the $4000 
he was to receive. Sparks then engaged Oliver Everett 
as publishing agent, paying him $1000 a year and ten 
per cent, commission on all the money received for 
subscriptions above 2100 names. ^ His first number 
was issued January, 1824. 

The Review showed immediately that it was directed 
by a firmer hand. Sparks called on his friends in 
many parts of the country to write on such subjects as 

1 To Sparks, Nov. 24, 1822. Sparks MSS. 

* Sparks's Diary, Aug. 25 and Sept. 4, 1823. Sparks MSS. 


he considered timely. He realized that it is not the 
function of a good editor merely to select and print 
the best of the articles submitted to him, but to decide 
upon the subjects to be treated and secure the best 
writers to discuss them. He especially desired to con- 
duct an American journal, and he wished the Review to 
be national in its scope. His efforts to draw in con- 
tributors from all sections were only partially success- 
ful ; and his contributors were mostly from Boston or 
its vicinity. 

Before his day nothing had been paid for articles. 
Sparks adopted the rule of paying a dollar a page, 
a small sum, but an evidence of good faith with the 
contributors. The innovation surprised the North 
American writers. Some refused to take the money, 
among them Judge Story and Professor Andrews 
Norton. The latter said: "If I were once to indulge 
the notion of making money by anything I write, it 
would lead to such continual disappointment that I 
must put all thought of it out of my head." ^ But the 
majority took what was offered, choosing to accept 
the gratification of the present, leaving future disap- 
pointments to take care of themselves. The practice 
put magazine writing on a business basis and it served 
to add dignity to the calling of the reviewer. 

Under Sparks the North American became the 
arbiter of the fate of a new book in New England. A 
large part of the public, and the most cultivated part, 

1 Norton to Sparks, Oct. 15, 1825. Sparks MSS. 


waited to see what this critic said. If its judgment 
was favorable, the book was well launched. By some 
its standards were pronounced arbitrary, and even 
biased by sectional prejudices. Prescott himself 
seemed to have held this view ; for, in congratulating 
Bancroft in 1833 on the appearance of the first volume 
of the "History of the United States," he said: "I 
find that Ticknor and Sparks have both conceived a 
favorable opinion from what they have heard. But 
of one thing rest assured : if you forswear your own 
soil and settle in Philadelphia, it will be damned to a 
certainty in the North American : that we are resolved 
upon, and you know there is no appeal from that 
tribunal." ^ 

Sparks was practical and possessed good business 
habits. He secured an excellent publisher, who brought 
the accounts into order and pressed for the collection 
of subscriptions. The result was that the subscrip- 
tion list grew slowly but steadily, until in August, 
1828, it contained 3200 names. In March, 1830, when 
Sparks sold his share in the publication, he received 
$15,000 for three-fourths of the entire property. The 
other fourth he had sold in 1826 to his publishing agent 
for $4000. Adding together these two sums, we see 
that he had obtained $9100 more than he paid for 
the property. Meanwhile, he had received a salary 
of $2200 a year. Considering the state of literature 
at the time, this was doing well. 

1 Prescott to George Bancroft, March 16, 1833. Bancroft MBS. 


Sparks's relations with his contributors were generally 
pleasant. He seems to have taken the liberty, as 
every editor must, of cutting or altering the material 
sent him to suit the needs of the journal. Sometimes 
he clearly went too far, as we may see in a notable case 
in 1826. He had for review a Greek lexicon by John 
Pickering, son of Timothy Pickering, and custodian of 
the Pickering papers. Sparks was already interested in 
historical documents, and he naturally wished to have 
the lexicographer in a pleasant frame of mind. Sev- 
eral persons had refused to review the book when he 
appealed to George Bancroft, then twenty-six years 
old and a schoolmaster in Northampton. From his 
letter the following extract is quoted : 

"Write six pages on the Lexicon, if you have no more time; 
or as many pages as you like. It affords an excellent opportunity 
for discussing the question of the priority of Greek or Latin in 
studying the languages. The fashion of beginning with Greek is 
coming much in vogue, and will increase as dictionaries in Greek 
and English multiply. It seems to me a good notion, but it is a 
topic to discuss in the present stage of things ; as well as other 
things connected therewith." 

Returning to the same subject ten days later, he said : 

"Be learned, or popular, or both, as you please. Criticize justly 
but with good temper, and with due respect for so high authority 
as Mr. Pickering. He has great merits for his literary ardor and 
acquisitions, in the midst of a laborious profession, and is not to 
be dealt lightly with, nor should his work be examined with the 
same acuteness, as one coming from a professor of the language. 
Besides, he makes no high pretensions, and in such case it will 
hardly be just to be very free with censure. I imagine he has 


accomplished nearly all he attempted. Moreover, his coadjutors 
seem to have taken the greater share of the work. And after all 
it professes to be only a translation of Schrevelius, and all great 
defects must be in the original author. Mr. Pickering may have 
committed a mistake in translating such an author. Of this you 
must judge. In short, treat the matter as your judgment dictates, 
only take care to discriminate in your praises and censures, both 
as to persons and things." 

Broad as were these hints, they were lost on Bancroft. 
If he was sensitive on anything it was on his reputation 
as a supporter of the new German school of Greek 
scholarship ; and to that school Schrevelius was the 
embodiment of error. Of the young scholar's review 
the best that could be said was that he pushed Picker- 
ing aside and delivered his blows on the back of the 
original author. Sparks was in dismay. His own let- 
ter to Bancroft will give us an idea of what was done. 
In it were these words, undoubtedly to be interpreted 
as the best face he could put on his conduct : 

"Your review is in press, but the first part a good deal altered. 
It was read to two of our best Greek scholars, one of whom did 
not know who the author was, and they both said most unequivo- 
cally, that they thought your criticisms too severe, and your 
general tone of remarks not altogether suited to the dignity of the 
subject. In these I agreed with them perfectly. By the mode of 
criticizing which you adopted, Stevens himself might not only be 
made very imperfect, but ridiculous. You may depend the article 
as you sent it would have given no pleasure to anybody, but offence 
to many. It was important to retain the Scripture proper names, 
because one object of the Lexicon is to aid in reading the 'O. & N. 
Testament,' and pupils must know how to decline these words 
before they can read. On the whole I thought best to omit your 


verbal criticisms, and I was obliged to throw in two or three short 
paragraphs of my own to connect matters together. As the thing 
is of very little importance, I presume you will have no objection 
to what is done; and if you should I cannot help it, as there was 
no time to deliberate. Your observations on Greek Lexicons gen- 
erally are so valuable that I could not part with them, and as 
things now stand the review of the said Lexicon is a secondary 
affair in the article. It is headed 'Greek Lexicography.' Picker- 
ing's enterprise was certainly a praiseworthy one, vastly more 
laborious, than honorable, and the result of criticisms on it should 
not be a severe censure, but rather a commendation, whatever the 
minor faults may be. It is observable that you do not point out any 
other single work which ought to have been taken in preference." 

Bancroft, of course, was highly outraged at his 
treatment. He had been made to appear to condone 
just the kind of Greek study he had spent five years 
in trying to overthrow. He protested to the editor, 
he demanded proof-sheets, and when they came he 
forbade the pubhcation of the piece as it then was; 
but Sparks had already printed the number to the last 
signature and the article could not be withdrawn. It 
is due to Bancroft that the following extract be given 
from his letters, in order that the reader may see his 
point of view. Taking up Sparks's objections, he 
exclaimed : 

"But the severe mode of criticism would make Stevens ridiculous ! 
You cannot be very familiar with Stephanus to say that. The 
mode of criticism is one which I learnt in the schools of the best 
masters and leads to the result the article states about Stevens. 
It is the only fair criticism, careful and minute : any other is 
superficial and deceptive. But the article would have given no 
pleasure to anybody ! That is a mistake. The public is always 


with those that tell the truth. It would give oflFence to many ! 
I knew it and told you so beforehand. You encouraged me to 
write freely, and rightly said to my fears. Who cares.'' 'It was 
important, however, to retain the Scripture Proper names!' Much 
you have examined the subject to say that. Nobody of character 
has advocated that opinion for more than seventy years past. 
Valckenaer and Buehnken, and Wyttenbach, Schneider, Riemer, 
and Passow are the authorities whom I followed, and think they 
were right, though your two Boston advisers may remain of the 
old opinion." ^ 

This incident reveals much about Sparks's idea of 
the work of an editor. Industry, knowledge of what 
would be interesting, and the ability to keep his peri- 
odical abreast with, or even ahead of, the times, were 
among his excellent qualifications for the position of 
editor. But he was not willing to offend the mighty. 
It was the same trait which in later life led him to 
soften the language of Washington's letters and omit 
expressions which, as he thought, lowered the dignity 
of him who wrote them. It was the greatest weakness 
in the achievements of an otherwise great historian. 

3. Early Historical Activity 

Why Sparks turned to history is not evident. At 
college he was most interested in mathematics and 
natural history, and later on he went into theology, 
giving himself for the time being to each subject with 

' For this correspondence see Sparks to Bancroft, Oct. 30, Nov. 10, 
Dec. 1 and 18, 1826, and Jan 2, 1827. Bancroft MSS, Mass. Histl. Soc. 
Also Bancroft to Sparks, Nov. 2, 10, 10 [?], and 22, Dec. 5, 6, and 13, 1826, 
and Jan. 18, 1827. Sparks MSS. 


the greatest energy. While in Baltimore he began 
to write historical articles for the North American, 
dealing with such topics as "Internal Improvements 
in North Carolina," "Land Grants for Schools," and 
*' Education in Maryland." For these articles he 
made extensive use of documentary materials. As 
Professor Adams remarks, he was by nature an explorer, 
and he found in the quest for information in unsuspected 
places satisfaction for an impulse which under more 
favorable conditions might have made him a great 

About the time he was at college he became fas- 
cinated by the story of John Ledyard, a Connecticut 
Yankee, who had traveled much in Africa, Asia, and 
the Pacific Islands, and who has been called the Henry 
M. Stanley of his day. Sparks was for exploring 
Africa himself, going into the interior by way of 
Morocco, but money was wanting and friends remon- 
strated, so he gave up the hope. He determined to 
do the next best thing, that is, write a life of Ledyard. 
During the Baltimore years and for some time after- 
wards the plan was in his mind. It did not materialize 
until 1828, but it perhaps served to keep alive his 
interest in historical writing, and it may have turned 
him definitely to that kind of literature in the days when 
the formative period was past.^ 

The year 1823 was a critical point in Sparks's 
career; for it was then that he gave up the ministry. 

1 Adams, "Life and Writings of Jared Sparks," I, 93, 165, 180, 375-387. 


While in Boston and before he decided to buy the 
North American, he wrote this paragraph in his diary : 

"Read a little, wrote a little. Meditating on the importance of 
having a new history of America. Thought I might undertake it 
some time or other. No ordinary task to do it properly. I would 
go to the foundation, and read everything on the subject. The 
Ebeling library at Harvard University, the collection of books in 
the Boston Athenaeum and Historical Society, afford facilities, 
which cannot be enjoyed elsewhere." ^ 

A busy editor had no time to carry out such a plan, 
but the diary contains evidence that writing history 
continued to appeal to Sparks's imagination. March 
25, 1824, he received a letter from Charles Folsom, an 
old schoolmate, proprietor of a press in Cambridge, 
which brought his historical impulses to a head. "I 
wish to publish," said Folsom, "a handsome and cor- 
rect edition of Washington's writings complete. To 
this end I should wish to communicate with some per- 
sons, who could and would aid me to do it in the best 
manner. Who are they at the South?" ^ The idea 
of having a complete edition of the writings of Wash- 
ington was not new to Sparks, as he himself said. 
Several small volumes of Washington's letters had 
come out, most of them containing letters written to 
one man. At that time it was a favorite idea for a man 
who published his own recollections to include in the 

1 Under date Aug. 18, 1823. See also the No. Am. Rev., Jan. 1826, 
Vol. 22, p. 221. 

2 Sparks MSS. Also in Adams, "Life of Sparks," I, 390. 


book some letters of Washington ; for they gave stand- 
ing to any volume in which they were found. 

Sparks knew that a large collection of Washington's 
letters was preserved at Mount Vernon, in the pos- 
session of Justice Bushrod Washington, of the supreme 
court, a nephew of George Washington. To the judge 
he wrote on behalf of Folsom, and received a refusal. 
He seems to have expected it, and to have determined 
that in spite of it he himself would publish an edition 
of Washington. April 23, five weeks before he knew 
for certain whether or not his friend's request would 
be granted, he wrote in his diary: "Conversed with 
Dr. Mease, [of Philadelphia,] on the means of collect- 
ing Washington's papers for the purpose of publish- 
ing a complete edition of his works, a project which 
I have for some time had in view." 

We hear nothing more of Folsom in connection with 
the enterprise; but Sparks did not lose interest. For 
a year and a half he wrote to many persons inquiring 
about Washington letters. He learned that a great 
many existed but that they were widely scattered. 
He also learned that Washington kept copies of most 
of his letters and that they were probably at Mount 
Vernon, and he decided to make another effort to see 
them. Preparing a frank and intelligent statement of 
his plans he laid it before Judge Washington, adding 
that he would find his labors much shortened if he 
could get all the papers he needed for his work in the 
convenient and authentic form in which Washington 


left them. Again the master of Mount Vernon was 
unyielding. He was about to publish, he said, three 
volumes of Washington's letters and more might 
follow, a work in which he had the co-operation of the 
Chief Justice Marshall. Sparks was not discouraged. 
He appealed to his friends, particularly to Judge Story, 
who became his active champion. Another letter 
went to the chief justice, to whom Story also spoke, and 
it brought the encouraging assurance that "if the 
publication he [Judge Washington] is about to make 
shall defeat the more enlarged and perfect edition 
which you propose, it will be a circumstance which 
I shall regret. It is not the object of Mr. Washington 
to attach any notes or illustrations to the publication 
he proposes making, but simply to select some of the 
most interesting of the letters and to offer them to 
the public." ^ 

By this time Sparks's interest was so much aroused 
that he was planning to extend his investigations to the 
general field of the revolution ; and to gain a clear 
idea of what lay before him he made a trip through 
the South Atlantic states between March 22 and July 
7, 1826. He examined state archives and left orders 
for copies to be made, and extended his circle of ac- 
quaintances. The journal of his travels is rich in 
information touching the state of documents. On 
his return he inspected the archives of the middle 
states, except New York, which he visited — and 

^ Adams, "Life of Sparks," I, 405. 


New England also — in the autumn of the same year,^ 
He was much interested in the state of society of the 
far southern states, where he was well received and 
afforded every desirable facility to promote his object. 
His health, never very robust, was benefited by the 
journey, and his enthusiasm for American history was 
greatly increased. "I have got a passion for Revo- 
lutionary history," he exclaimed, on his return, "and 
the more I look into it the more I am convinced that 
no complete history of the American Revolution has 
been written. The materials have never been col- 
lected ; they are still in the archives of the states, and 
in the hands of individuals." ^ 

He did not lose sight of the letters of Washington, 
and it happened that twice on his journey in the South 
he met Chief Justice Marshall, the man who could 
most help him in his quest. The first encounter was 
in Richmond, and Sparks's journal contains such an 
interesting picture of the great man's home that it 
is quoted entirely. It reads : 

" Called on Chief Justice Marshall ; entered his yard through a 
broken wooden gate, fastened by a leather strap and opened with 
some difficulty, rang, and an old lady came to the door. I asked 
if Judge Marshall was at home. 'No,' said she, 'he is not in the 
house ; he may be in the office,' and pointed to a small brick build- 
ing in one corner of the yard. I knocked at the door and it was 
opened by a tall, venerable looking man, dressed with extreme 
plainness, and having an air of affability in his manners. I intro- 

^ The journals are given in full in Adams, "Life of Sparks," I, 414-572. 
-Ibid, 509. 


duced myself as the person who had just received a letter from him 
concerning General Washington's letters, and he immediately 
entered into conversation on that subject. He appeared to think 
favorably of my project, but intimated that all the papers were 
entirely at the disposal of Judge Washington. He said that he 
had read with care all General Washington's letters in the copies 
left by him, and mtimated that a selection only could with pro- 
priety be printed, as there was in many of them a repetition, not 
only of ideas, but of language. This was a necessary consequence 
of his writmg to so many persons on the same subjects, and nearly 
at the same time. He spoke to me of the history of Virginia ; said 
Stith's History and Beverly's were of the highest authority, and 
might be relied on. Of Burk he only remarked that the author 
was fond of indulging his imagination, 'But,' he added in a good- 
natured way, 'there is no harm in a little ornament, I suppose.' 
He neither censured nor commended the work. . . . Such and 
other things were the topics of conversation, till the short hour of 
a ceremonious visit had run out. I retired much pleased with the 
urbanity and kindly manners of the Chief Justice. There is con- 
sistency in all things about him, — his house, grounds, office, him- 
self, bear marks of a primitive simplicity and plainness rarely to 
be seen combined." * 

Returning, Sparks arrived in Richmond on May 10. 
He noted in his journal : 

"Met Judge Marshall last evening at the town of Monroe, on 
the Roanoke River. He was on his way to hold his circuit court 
in Raleigh, and traveling in a sulky. He said he much preferred 
the stage for its expedition, but could not travel nights. Passed 
half an hour very agreeably with him. ... A case of libel is to 
come on at Raleigh, which the Judge seems to dread exceedingly. 
It is a case between two clergymen, Mr. Whitaker and Dr. 
McPheeters. A good deal of excitement exists on the subject, and 
the decision must involve principles which present legal difficulties 
and perplexities." ^ 

i/fcid., 421. ^ Ibid., 451. 


Back in Boston, Sparks made another appeal to 
Judge Washington. He was convinced he could not 
proceed without access to the collection at Mount 
Vernon/ but he was careful not to let the conviction 
appear in his letter. On the contrary, he announced 
that he had found so much material that he was "very 
confident of procuring nearly everything which can 
throw light on the public character of General Wash- 
ington," and he only regretted that through failure 
to have access to the Mount Vernon collection there 
would be some imperfections in his work. Then he 
played his last card. He had learned that the judge 
had offered to sell the copyright of three or five vol- 
umes of Washington letters to a Philadelphia publisher 
for $10,000. On this hint he now offered the judge 
half the profits above cost of publishing and of col- 
lecting materials, on condition that the Mount Vernon 
papers be placed freely at his disposal, to be used 
as he saw fit. The recipient of the letter consulted 
the chief justice, who advised acceptance, and on this 
basis the matter was settled. 

This favorable termination of his efforts greatly 
pleased Sparks ; and in January, 1827, he found him- 
self alone at Mount Vernon with the coveted manu- 
scripts in his hands. They proved richer than he had 
anticipated. Forty thousand letters, most of them 
copied into letter-books, were before him. Three 
happy months were spent in making a superficial 

^ Adams, "Life of Sparks," I, 417. 


examination, with the result that he realized that he 
could not select what was most valuable without 
giving himself to a long study of the contents. He then 
appealed to the owner for permission to take the papers 
to Boston, where he could examine them at his leisure. 
Permission was given, and he returned to his home with 
the treasure safely stowed. 

By this time Sparks was one of the heroes of Bos- 
ton's literary circle. "You are our standing boast 
and delight," Edward Everett had said ^ in 1822. To 
bring back the papers of the most distinguished Ameri- 
can made him still more a marked man. Boston hailed 
the feat with admiration, and probably no book that 
Sparks wrote brought him more consideration from 
those who liked him best. Samuel A. Eliot wrote to 
congratulate him, but added shrewdly that he hoped 
the judge did not force Sparks to promise too large 
a share of the proceeds of the publication. ^ Miss 
Storrow, probably the truest friend Sparks then had, 
wrote: "I hear you are the richest, the busiest, and 
the happiest man in New England, perhaps in the 
world. Long may all this continue!"^ William H. 
Eliot wrote that he longed to touch the manuscripts 
which Washington himself had handled. 

The general expectation that Sparks would make a 
great deal of money out of the " Washington " was not 

1 To Sparks, Feb. 4, 1822. Sparks MSS. 

2 To Sparks, March 30 and May 24, 1827. Sparks MSS. 

5 Miss A. G. Storrow to Sparks, June 23, 1827. Sparks MSS. 


realized. In 1837, when the last volume of the work 
had been published, he had received from its sales 
$30,741.00, and his expenses for travel, stereotype 
plates, etc., amounted to $15,356.37. The remainder 
he divided into two equal parts. One was for himself, 
and the other was divided between the heirs of Wash- 
ington and Marshall. From that time the work was 
published on a royalty basis, but the returns were 
always shared as just stated.^ The royalties were 
never large. From this arrangement it will be seen 
that the chief justice was not entirely disinterested 
when in 1827 he advised Judge Washington to accept 
Sparks's offer. 

The Washington letters were kept in a fireproof 
building while in Boston, and Sparks had an index 
made. When he had finished with them they were 
returned to the owners without loss or damage. His 
use of the collection called attention to its value, and 
in 1834 it was purchased by the national government 
and deposited in the library of the state department. 
It now forms the most precious part of the manu- 
scripts collection of the library of congress. 

4. Twelve Fruitful Years 

A list of the editor's own articles in the North Ameri- 
can Revieiv shows that after he embarked on his new 
enterprise, in 1827, he wrote little for that journal. 

1 Adams, "Life of Sparks," II, 295 n. 


History now absorbed all his enthusiasm. He un- 
doubtedly expected to go forward with the work of 
editing and publishing the letters, a task for which 
three or four years would have been adequate. But, 
like many another explorer, he was dazzled by the oppor- 
tunities opening before him ; and before the " Wash- 
ington " was completed in 1837 he had undertaken 
six other books. ^ Although he brought to completion 
all but one of these additional enterprises, the scat- 
tering of energy told on him in the long run. The 
various works demanded an extraordinary amount of 
labor, and its completion probably left him without 
impulse for other writing. From 1840 to his death 
in 1866 he wrote nearly nothing, completing five of 
the lives in the second series of the "American Biog- 
raphy," the "Correspondence of the Revolution," in 
four volumes — a work planned at Mount Vernon in 1827 
— and a few brief papers and newspaper sketches. 

One of the distractions was the collection of histori- 
cal materials relating to the revolution, involving a 
trip to Europe in 1828-1829, which will be discussed in 
another place. Of his writings that now followed one 
after the other with bewildering rapidity the following 
list contains the important titles : 

^ Sparks tried to extend his labors further afield. He approached the 
family of Alexander Hamilton to edit the papers of the first secretary of the 
treasury, and he wished to edit the papers of Lafayette and John Jay. In 
1833 he wrote to Peter Force with an idea of taking over the " American 
Archives." Sparks to Force, Dec. 10, 1833. Force MSS, Library of 
Congress. See Adams, "Life of Sparks," H, 334. 


1. "Life and Travels of John Ledyard" (1828). 
This book had long been on his hands, and Miss 
Storrow, his good angel in years of struggle, many 
times chided him lest the demands of editorial work 
should defeat its production. She had faith in the au- 
thor and was concerned at the prospect that he would 
continue to do small things/ which were not worthy 
of his ability. Sparks took up Ledyard in earnest in 
1827, after his return from Mount Vernon, as though he 
meant to clear the way for larger things. 

2. "The Diplomatic Correspondence of the American 
Revolution" (12 volumes, 1829-30). This work was 
published under a contract by which the federal gov- 
ernment took a large number of copies. It was under- 
taken under an act of congress of 1818 authorizing 
the president to make arrangements for the publica- 
tion. Sparks found the arrangement profitable and 
wished to have the work continued from 1783 to 1789. 
Through the efforts of friends a bill to that end was 
passed through congress, leaving to the secretary of 
state the duty of making the contract, and at that 
time Van Bur en was secretary. When Sparks was 
ready to make the contract, he learned that it had 
already been made — with Blair and Rives, publishers 
of the Globe, the Jackson organ. ^ 

3. 'The American Almanac and Repository of 
Useful Knowledge" (Vol. I, 1830). Sparks furnished 
the statistics and Professor Farrar, of Harvard, wrote 

^ Adams, "Life of Sparks," II, 153. 


the astronomical observations. They owned the work 
jointly. The first edition of three thousand copies 
was quickly sold at a good profit, but the labor was so 
heavy that Sparks transferred his share to his partner, 
who continued the "Almanac" for many years. 

4. "The Life of Goouverneur Morris" (3 volumes, 
1832). Sparks undertook to write this book because 
it was the only way to obtain access to the papers of 
Morris. He. wrote a biography which filled the first 
volume and surrendered the second and third to selec- 
tions from the correspondence and other papers. The 
whole was done within a year; and it has not been 
highly esteemed by posterity. 

5. "The Life and Writings of George Washington" 
(12 volumes, 1834-37). The first volume contained 
a life of Washington, and in order that it might con- 
tain the maturest results of his work on the papers 
in his hands, he kept it back, until the others had 
been sent to the press. Volume II contained Wash- 
ington's letters before the revolution. Volumes III 
to VIII inclusive contained the ofiicial and private 
letters during the revolution. Volume IX contained 
the private letters from the end of the revolution to 
the beginning of the first presidency. Volumes X and 
XI had Washington's letters, public and private, 
during his presidency. Volume XII contained his 
speeches, proclamations, and messages to congress. 
In appendices were incorporated some valuable papers 
which had been discovered through the industry of the 


editor. A discussion of the manner in which these 
volumes were edited is deferred to another page in this 

6. "The Works of Benjamin Franklin; with Notes, 
and a Life of the Author" (10 volumes, 1836-40). 
In 1832 Sparks learned that Edward Everett was 
thinking of writing a biography of Franklin. He has- 
tened to inform his friend that he himself had made 
a plan four years earlier to bring out a complete col- 
lection of Franklin's works. As if to preempt the 
field, he sent at once to the printers a small collection 
of letters which came out in 1833 with the title, "A 
Collection of the Familiar Letters and Miscellaneous 
Papers of Benjamin Franklin." They dealt with 
Franklin's personality and were slightly political. 

The larger work was begun about 1834. It con- 
sisted of a life in one volume and nine volumes of let- 
ters and other papers. As the work progressed sev- 
eral rich collections of papers were found which pre- 
viously had been overlooked. Up to that time it was 
the fashion to paint Franklin as a cunning man who 
lacked sincerity. Sparks depicted him as a man of 
sagacity, honorable in his dealings with his fellow-men, 
patient with the weaknesses of others, and sincere 
in his actions and opinions. Next to the " Washing- 
ton " the "Life of Franklin " was Sparks's best work. 

Sparks knew that he had not discovered all of Frank- 
lin's papers. William Temple Franklin had taken 
a large collection to London, using some of them in 


the three-volume edition of his father's papers pub- 
lished in 1817-19. The edition sold poorly and the 
publishers refused to continue it. The entire collec- 
tion of the papers remained in the possession of the 
family of William Temple Franklin after his death 
in 1823, But Sparks was denied access to them in 
1829, on the ground that they were wanted to throw 
light on a claim against the government. After a 
while they disappeared, to turn up again about 1850 
in a tailor's shop in London. They came into the 
hands of Henry Stevens, who applied to Sparks for 
information about them. A correspondence ensued 
in which Sparks proposed to edit the papers in a new 
edition of his own work. Stevens agreed, but he was 
unable to send the papers to America because they 
had been pledged to George Peabody to secure a 
loan. They were finally purchased by the United 
States government and placed in the library of the 
state department, whence they were transferred to 
the library of congress. 

7. "The Library of American Biography" (first 
series, 10 volumes, 1834-38 : second series, 15 vol- 
umes, 1844-47). The plan for the work was made in 
1832. Several persons were to write short lives of emi- 
nent Americans, and these were to be published in con- 
venient volumes, each containing from one to four of 
the lives. Sparks at first agreed to get out only four 
volumes and he had not more than begun the work on 
them when he found himself so busily engaged with 


other things that he tried to induce George Bancroft to 
take his place. ^ The pubhshers, however, insisted that 
he should remain editor, and he went on with the work. 
The biographies proved very popular and were con- 
tinued through ten volumes. After a while the second 
series was projected. The lives were generally well 
written, most of them being done on the basis of 
original research. Although now superseded by works 
of better trained men, they remain for the most part a 
valuable collection of popular biography. 

Sparks believed that the history of a country could 
be presented to the reader in a series of properly related 
biographies. "There are three kinds of biographical 
writing," he said. "First, historical biography, which 
admits of copious selections from letters and other 
original papers. Secondly, memoirs, which method 
is somewhat allied to the above, but more rambling 
and relating more to the affairs of a private nature. 
Thirdly, personal narrative, in which the individual 
is always kept before the reader, and the incidents 
are made to follow each other in consecutive order. 
This last is the most difficult to execute, because it 
requires a clear and spirited style, discrimination in 
selecting facts, and judgment in arranging them so as 
to preserve just proportions." In neither of these 
divisions does Sparks include that kind of biography 
which may be called "the lives and times" of eminent 

1 Sparks to Bancroft, Nov. 22, Dec. 1, 1832; April 22, Sept. 24, Oct. 3, 
1833. Bancroft MSS, Mass. Histl. Soc. 


men, a kind of writing in which history is made to 
hang around the actions of some prominent political 
character. To him the biographer was a portrait 
painter whose medium was words rather than color, 
and whose art consisted in the skillful manipulation 
of light and shades, intelligent grasp of the principles 
of composition and values, and the wise utilization of 

8. "Correspondence of the American Revolution; 
being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washing- 
ton" (4 volumes, 1853). When Sparks began to 
examine the Washington papers he was struck with 
the many excellent letters they contained from promi- 
nent revolutionary men to Washington. He formed 
the plan at once to issue a special work in which they 
should be included. His design was not carried out 
for many years, but in 1853, the year in which he re- 
signed the presidency of Harvard, the work came from 
the press. It was not a difficult task, since his work 
on it consisted in merely selecting the letters to be 

These eight works contain sixty-nine volumes, 
most of them octavo. They occupy a large place on 
the shelves of a library. Think of what an American 
history section was before they were published. 
Holmes's "Annals," Pitkins's "History," Ramsay's and 
Gordon's books on the revolution, and some broken 
attempts to give the letters of Washington and Frank- 
lin : how small they seem by the side of the works of 


a man who essayed to publish all that was important 
in the papers of men like Washington, Franklin, and 
Gouverneur Morris, and who gathered up in twenty- 
five volumes the lives of the great Americans who had 
founded the national life. However we may criticize 
them, these books changed the face of our historical 
literature ; and the mind that could conceive the proj- 
ect and carry it to completion demands respectful 

In 1830 to 1840 thoughtful people in the United 
States had just awakened to the importance of his- 
torical documents. It was the day of the publication 
of the "Annals of Congress," the "Debates in Con- 
gress," the "American State Papers," and the "Ameri- 
can Archives." Members of congress eagerly received 
these works from a generous government and placed 
them in their libraries in the belief that they were 
going to read them. The reviewers began to talk of 
a documentary history as the only real way in which 
history was to be written, having in mind that pos- 
terity, if not themselves, would while away its hours 
of ease poring over collections of laws, state papers, 
and political correspondence. To what extremes this 
feeling ran is seen in the sales of Sparks's works. In 
1852 over seven thousand sets of the "Writings of 
Washington" had been sold. When a publisher under- 
took to bring out a new and more complete edition 
in 1889, he limited it to seven hundred and fifty copies ; 
and in 1889 our population was nearly four times as 


great as in 1834 when Sparks's edition began to be 

Sparks himself was fascinated by the idea of writ- 
ing a documentary history of the revolution. Into 
what definite shape he would have wrought such a 
book it is not possible to say ; for his plans were never 
announced. But the idea was always in his mind. 
It was behind all his editing and collecting of materials. 
In 1838 he said of the completion of the " Franklin " : 
"With this work I trust my editing career will end. 
I have planned a history of the American Revolu- 
tion, on an extended scale, having studied that sub- 
ject at the fountain-head for ten years. I know not 
when it will be executed. I intended going to Europe 
the present year, for the purpose of completing my col- 
lection of materials, but amidst the late wreck of human 
things I have lost almost my whole property, and am 
obliged to abandon the project for some time, and 
perhaps forever." ^ The universal wreck to which 
he alluded was the panic of 1837, which carried away 
the American Stationers' Company, a publishing 
house in which he was largely interested. His dis- 
couragement was temporary, and in 1840 he made a 
second visit to Europe, seeking documents. "Having 
finished the literary undertakings which have been so 
long on my hands," he said, "what could I do better 
than to engage in another? I am preparing to write 
a formidable history of the American Revolution. 

' Adams, "Life of Sparks," II, 346. 


Most of the important materials exist only in the Brit- 
ish and French offices." ^ He appeared very earnest 
in his project, so much so that he was alarmed at the 
thought that Bancroft was going to write about the 
revolution, and suggested that Prescott induce him 
to write about Philip 11.^ The years passed and the 
great work made no progress. Probably that irreso- 
lution which Miss Storrow had detected in his early 
life now possessed him, once the great rush of labors 
was ended. At any rate, the " Documentary History 
of the Revolution " was not written. His biographer 
tells us it became a subject to be avoided in the Sparks 

5. Collector of Historical Documents 

No passion is more exhilarating than that of the 
collector, and if ever a man had reason to delight in 
it, Sparks, who found a virgin field before him, was 
the man. But collecting has its perils for him who 
would be a historian : it may become the object rather 
than the means for reaching an object. Whether 
or not Sparks carried it to this excess is difficult to 
say. It is certain that in the condition of historical 
materials then existing he could not have written 

1 Adams, " Life of Sparks," II, 378. 

2 Ibid.. 293 n. 

^ Ibid., 554. Professor Adams excuses Sparks on the ground that he 
could not use his right hand with comfort after 1851 and that he had many 
letters to write. But Sparks had ten good years before 1851, and the 
letters could have been declined. 


books without first amassing materials. It is also 
certain that his researches stimulated in a notable 
way the collection and preservation of materials. He, 
George Bancroft, and Peter Force, all working to the 
same end, set many smaller men to work, and the 
result was seen in the local collections. They made 
the thirties and forties brilliant. Moreover, their 
influence reached the wealthy collectors, who began 
to lay the foundations for private collections, which 
were eventually to become rich features of great 
libraries. In this movement Sparks may claim to 
have been the first in point of time among the col- 
lectors of documents in his day. 

His first appearance in the role was in 1827, when 
he made his journey in the South. He was already 
planning for the great work which he never began, 
the history of the revolution. Passing rapidly through 
Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, he began 
the labors of research at Charleston. The people 
received him most cordially, but they had little to 
show. *' Inquire about papers," he wrote in his journal, 
"no one knows anything on the subject, but all are 
ready to mention numerous other persons who are 
presumed to be fully informed of the matter." 

Next he went to Milledgeville, then the capital of 
Georgia. There he found a small number of papers 
that were worth copying, and gave orders accordingly. 
Thence he went to Columbia, where he was cor- 
dially received by the faculty of the university. He 


examined the records in the public offices, and gave 
orders for copies to be made of a small number of 
papers. Next he went to Raleigh, where, to his grati- 
fication, he found the records in an excellent condi- 
tion. A liberal selection was made and copies ordered. 
The spirit of resistance to British authority which 
early manifested itself in the colony of North Caro- 
lina impressed him forcibly. "Perusing the journals 
all day," he wrote in the diary; "find much to my 
purpose, and am surprised to see at how early a period, 
and with how much resolution, the people of North 
Carolina manifested their disapprobation of the Eng- 
lish government." ^ From Raleigh he went to Rich- 
mond, where his examination yielded much fruit. Going 
further north he visited Annapolis, Harrisburg, Phila- 
delphia, Dover, Trenton, and New York. The journey 
was one of exploration and he brought back, besides a 
mass of copies, a thirst for further acquisitions. 

He had, however, seen enough of the situation to 
understand the difficulties against which a man must 
contend who at that time attempted to write a his- 
tory of the revolution. "The more I look into it," he 
said, "the more I am convinced that no complete his- 
tory of the American Revolution has been written. 
The materials have never been collected ; they are 
still in the archives of the states, and in the hands of 
individuals. During my tour I have examined the 
public offices of every state south of New York, looked 

^ Adams, "Life of Sparks," I, 443, 


at all the files of revolutionary correspondence and 
the journals of that period, and have procured copies 
of everything most valuable." ^ Later in the year 
he took a journey through New England and New 
York examining the archives and making copies. At 
the end of this journey he had a better knowledge of 
the condition and worth of American public documents 
than any other man then living. 

In all these travels he had been much assisted by 
the fact that he was a well-known public character. 
Throughout the country he had friends, many of them 
made during the years when he was the rising hope of 
the Unitarians. As the editor of the leading literary 
review in the United States he was also a marked man. 
His lack of prejudices and his evident superiority 
in intellectual matters, together with a pleasant but 
dignified bearing, opened all doors to him. 

Sparks's next care was to inspect the archives of 
Europe so far as they might be supposed to contain 
papers relating to his country. Up to that time those 
Americans who had written about the revolution 
had been content to rely on American documents. 
If they attempted to get the British point of view, it 
was in Dodsley's "Annual Register," or in some 
Briton's published reminiscences. Sparks had seen 
enough of the letters, reports, and orders issued on 
the American side to know that just such documents 
existed on the British side, probably better written 

1 Ibid., I, 509. 


originally and more fully preserved. No American 
had asked to see these papers, and it was not known 
that they would be shown. He went abroad, therefore, 
on an errand which could not but be considered uncer- 
tain. He was to ask the British government to show 
him the British side of a bitter controversy then only 
forty-five years ended. 

DiflBcult as his task was, no other American was 
better qualified to perform it. He was the editor of 
our only American review that had standing in Great 
Britain. He was a man of marked culture, accus- 
tomed to the best American society, and as apt as 
any of his countrymen to be at ease in the literary 
circles of Europe. At that time, more than in the 
present century, the upper circle of London society 
was ready to show honor to an interesting stranger. 
To this circle came Sparks with his hands full of letters 
of introduction. Some were from prominent Ameri- 
cans, Daniel Webster, Dr. Channing, Henry Clay, 
and William H. Prescott ; others, probably the most 
valuable of all for his purposes, were from Captain 
Basil Hall, the distinguished traveler, who was then 
in the United States. He wrote in Sparks's behalf 
to Lockhart, editor of The Quarterly Review, Sir James 
Mackintosh, and the Marquis of Lansdowne, then 
the home secretary. Letters to Lord Holland were 
also secured, and they proved most helpful. Sparks 
landed at Liverpool, April 16, 1828. 

His diary is full of the mention of social functions 


at which he took a pleasant part. He breakfasted with 
Brougham at Westminster Hall, had an appointment 
with Huskisson at the colonial office, and dined with 
Lord Holland and the Marquis of Lansdowne, where 
there were other lords and along with them Sydney 
Smith, with whom Sparks became well acquainted. 
At Brougham's he "found Mr. Mill there, the author 
of a work on political economy, and another on India," 
and he was "surprised to find both these gentlemen 
extremely ill-informed " in regard to the United States. 
He was introduced to Wordsworth, who invited him 
to breakfast, and who called later with Mrs. Words- 
worth. Southey he also met and saw many times. 
All this fine society pleased Sparks immensely, and 
he went out as much as he could. But he did not lose 
sight of the object of his visit. Pleading with officials, 
reading where he had gained access, and giving orders 
to his copyists were always his chief occupations. 

In his first interview with Lord Lansdowne, head 
of the home office, he was told that no impediment 
would exist to his researches. Other officials pro- 
fessed themselves most willing to promote his desires. 
But days and weeks passed in fruitless endeavors. 
One official sent him to another. Sir James Mackin- 
tosh, Lord Holland, Sydney Smith, and Southey all 
exhausted their skill to no avail. It was the very time 
when the British parties were in their most constant 
state of ferment, due to the persistent demand for 
popular reforms. In May the ministry was reorganized 


on a purely tory basis, and after a short while there 
followed a period of harmony. At that moment the 
coveted permission was obtained. It was just before 
the reorganization that Sparks presented his request, 
and the men then in power were so much engaged 
in their party difficulties that they did not give seri- 
ous attention to Sparks. He said later that he did not 
think they were disposed to deny his request, but 
that since it was unusual they naturally showed some 
hesitation in deciding upon the best way of granting it. 
As soon as permission had been gained in London 
Sparks set out for the continent, deferring the further 
examination of British papers until his return. After 
making a short detour into Germany he came to Paris, 
where he was accorded a warm welcome by Lafayette 
and the Marquis de Marbois, the latter a former minis- 
ter of the French government to the United States. 
They both possessed influence with the government 
and were able to secure speedy admission to the public 
archives. There is an interesting contrast between 
the way in which the French and British archives 
had to be attacked. In London each department 
had authority over the papers that had once been 
within its hands, even when they were in central 
deposits. It was, therefore, necessary to have per- 
mission from various sources, and in some cases the 
officials themselves expressed doubt as to their ability 
to give the required permission. In France all was 
certain. There was a keeper of archives with authority 


over his office. He took the request of Sparks under 
consideration, referred it to his superior, the minister 
of foreign affairs, and the latter gave permission. 
There was every reason that the French should be 
willing that their part in the American Revolution 
should be known to an American historian. 

Shortly after Sparks and his copyists had established 
themselves in Paris at their work in the archives, the 
minister of foreign affairs went on a vacation, leaving 
his office in the hands of a substitute. To this man 
came information that a stranger was installed in the 
public archives, taking copies of official papers, a 
favor not before allowed, even to a French citizen. 
He called upon the keeper of the papers, there was 
a period of hesitation, and the upshot was that the 
American was told that he could not make copies 
entire, but only extracts, and that he could not have 
a copyist. The decision involved a large amount 
of labor, but Sparks did not shirk it. For over three 
months he went daily to the archives, copying with 
his own hand, and missing none of the six hours a day 
in which the rooms were open. At last he submitted 
his notes to the keeper of the archives, who cut out a 
few passages perfunctorily, as if some excision was 
expected of him. Other collections, smaller than this, 
were examined, and January 3, 1829, he was back in 
London for the completion of his labors in that city. 

The British officials also allowed only extracts to 
be taken, but he might mark what he wanted, and 


clerks in the public service made the copies. When 
all was done the copies were inspected by the proper 
authorities. His most important work was in the 
foreign oflBce, and Lord Aberdeen, head of the office, 
handed the notes to Sparks with a pleasant speech, 
thus described in the journal of our traveler : 

"He said the facts of history were public property, and that 
the history in wliich I was engaged was one of great interest, not 
only to America, but to England and to Europe. He hoped to see 
all means used to keep up a kind feeling between England and the 
United States, and he believed that a well-digested and impartial 
history of past events could have no other effect at the present day, 
when time enough had elapsed to calm the excitements and angry 
feelings that prevailed during the transactions themselves." ^ 

It is creditable to Sparks that he was never justly 
criticized for misuse of the liberty given him in the 
British office. He found much new material, and 
some of it presented facts on the American side of 
the old controversy that might have been made to do 
service in opening old wounds. He did not use it in 
that way. Sir George Murray, one of the English- 
men who gave him much assistance, observed to him 
that there was a wide difference between the British 
and French documents : the latter, said he, were the 
papers of a power friendly to America in the time at 
which they were written, while the former were the 
papers of a nation then hostile; and he trusted that 
nothing would be done or said that would tend to 

1 Adams, "Life of Sparks," II, 127. 


revive angry feelings between the powers.^ Nothing 
could show better the dissolving power of history on 
national prejudices than the perfect agreement between 
these two men, Yankee and Briton, as they stood by 
the grave of Britain's former colonial authority and 
pledged each other that misunderstandings should 
not be revived. 

While in London Sparks had access to several rich 
private collections, one of them being the papers of 
the Earl of Shelburne, placed at his disposal by the 
Marquis of Lansdowne. Another valuable collec- 
tion he did not see. It was the papers of Edmund 
Burke, in the possession of Lord Fitzwilliam, who was 
quite old. After having his hope of seeing them excited, 
Sparks learned that the papers were in Yorkshire, 
in some confusion, and that it would be impossible to 
examine them. To his diary he confided his disap- 
pointment, consoling himself with the observation : 
"I have never had any hopes of those papers since I 
found they were in the hands of a lord, even a liberal 
and good-natured one, and that his personal labor 
was necessary to select them." ^ 

Sparks returned from Europe with even greater Sclat 
than from Mount Vernon two years earlier. The 
newspapers of Boston and New York took notice of 
his success, friends and strangers sent their congratu- 
lations, and his transcripts were looked upon as an 
addition to the national wealth. No book was ever 

1 Ibid.. 123, n. ^ /ftj^Z., 82. 


better advertised than Sparks's "Washington," could 
it have appeared immediately after his arrival in 
America. Bancroft wrote: "Let me join my con- 
gratulations with those of your friends who see you 
visibly on the great success which report attributes 
to your expedition. It falls to the lot of few men to 
identify themselves with a leading object of public 
curiosity and interest." ^ 

6. Sparks in the Hands of his Critics 

It would be pleasant to record that our first really 
efficient collector and editor of documents had carried 
his work through in such a way that no shadow rested 
upon it. Unfortunately, we can make no such a claim. 
Sparks, who did so much that was truly modern, did 
not shake off one fatal defect of the old methods. He 
thought that a sacred halo surrounded the life of a 
great man, which profane hands should not break 
lest ordinary men should lose their proper reverence 
for authority and for the noble ideals which were 
embraced in the higher specimens of the race. Hold- 
ing this view, and many men besides Sparks held it 
in 1830, he could not make up his mind to paint Wash- 
ington with small faults. He altered W^ashington's lan- 
guage and became liable to a charge of perverting the 
truth. But for this failing Sparks could be called the 
father of the modern school of American history. 

In 1847 W. B. Reed, of Philadelphia, published the 

1 Bancroft to Sparks, June 4, 1829. Sparks MSS. 


"Life and Correspondence of Joseph Reed," his 
grandfather, including in the book some letters from 
Washington, which had also appeared in Sparks's 
"Washington." Four years later a writer in the New 
York Evening Post, signing himself "Friar Lubin," 
called attention to the fact that Sparks's text of the 
letters did not correspond with Reed's. He spoke 
with acerbity, saying that the letters had been changed 
by the editor "from an imperfect appreciation of his 
editorial functions." In the same year was published 
the sixth volume of Lord Mahon's "History of Eng- 
land," in the appendix of which the author discussed 
Sparks's "Life of Washington." Mahon gave due 
credit for the learning and industry displayed in its 
footnotes, and to the good judgment with which the 
letters had been selected, but he also, and writing with- 
out knowledge of "Friar Lubin's" attack, pointed 
out the divergence between Sparks's and Reed's 
texts of the Washington letters, drawing conclusions 
nearly as uncomplimentary as those expressed in the 
Evening Post. "I am bound, however, not to conceal 
the opinion I have formed," said he, "that Mr. Sparks 
has printed no part of the correspondence precisely 
as Washington wrote it ; but has greatly altered, and, 
as he thinks, corrected and embellished it." ^ 

' In 1827 Sparks, calling attention to his project, issued a prospectus in 
which he published as samples some letters of Washington to Joseph Reed. 
William B. Reed wrote him saying that he noticed that these copies differed 
in the wording from the originals in his possession. Sparks ignored this 
warning. See Reed to Sparks, Oct. 17, 1827. Sparks MSS. 


To these strictures Sparks wrote a reply. He did 
not deny that he had made changes in Washington's 
letters. It was the duty of an editor, he said, to cor- 
rect slips of the pen, inaccuracies of expression, and 
errors in grammar; but he claimed that he had gone 
no further than this. He asserted that his corrections 
had in no case altered the meaning of a single state- 
ment of fact. In disclaiming an intention of pervert- 
ing Washington's words he said : 

"I do not pretend to infallibility of judgment ; probably no two 
persons would decide alike in all cases of this kind, some of which 
involve minute distinctions of no great moment in themselves ; nor 
am I sure that I should now in every instance approve my first 
decisions ; but I feel that I have a right to claim the credit of integ- 
rity of purpose, and of having faithfully discharged the duty set 
before me, in strict conformity with the principles explained at 
large to the public in the introduction to the first volume that was 
published." ^ 

Some of Mahon's evidence, and that which was 
most damaging to Sparks, included the appearance 
of a two-line sentence in Sparks's copy, which did not 
appear in the Reed copy. Much was made of it, 
especially since it was couched in florid language, 
which lent itself to ridicule. A closer examination of 
the originals showed that Reed himself had made a 
mistake in copying and that the two lines really ap- 

^ Sparks's reply 6rst appeared in the New York Evening Post in April, 
1852, and was republished in Boston in a pamphlet entitled, "A Reply to 
the strictures of Lord Mahon and Others on the Mode of Editing the 
Writings of Washington." 


peared in the original letter. As this point was 
Mahon's chief reliance for the charge that additions 
had been made to the text, he was left in an embarrass- 
ing position. He did the only thing possible, with- 
drew that particular charge in good temper, saying 
he had been misled through trusting Reed's text 
implicitly. But he did not withdraw the other charges, 
that is, the omission of some words and the alteration 
of others. 

Here are some of the corrections made by Sparks 
— Mahon called them "embellishments," a term 
which it is hard to condemn. Washington wrote 
*'01d Put.," following a custom universally popular 
at the time: Sparks changed it to "General Putnam." 
Washington spoke of a small sum of money as "but a 
flea-bite at present": Sparks made it read "totally 
inadequate to our demands at this time." W^here 
Washington used vehement language to characterize 
the conduct of the British, Sparks, probably recalling 
his conversation with Lord Aberdeen and Sir George 
Murray, omitted the strong words altogether. Thus 
vanishes the passage in which Dunmore is called "that 
arch traitor to the rights of humanity," and another 
in which the Scotch are "those universal instru- 
ments of tyranny." Mahon thinks that these omis- 
sions were made in order that Washington might 
not seem to speak harshly about the British. Of 
course, this construction may be put upon them, but 
it is as fair to assume that the passages were omitted 


in order that recalling them might not needlessly 
excite old passions. Giving Sparks the benefit of 
this doubt, however, does not rehabilitate him as an" 
editor ; for there are very many corrections in which 
it is undeniable that the sole object was to improve 
the language of a man who did not write polished 

Speaking in defense of his labors, Sparks said in his 
reply to his critics that Washington himself, in his 
old age, revised his letters while having them copied 
in letter-books, and since he. Sparks, used the letter- 
books it was not strange that the letters should be 
printed in a form unlike that in which they were sent. 
This excuse has been made to do good service by his 
defenders ; but it was effectively disposed of by Mahon, 
who pointed out that the letters to Reed were not 
copied into Washington's letter-books, since he had 
not retained copies of them ; and that the very copies 
that Sparks used were obtained by him from W. B. 
Reed, and if faithfully reproduced would have been 
identical with the text in Reed's book. 

The earlier volumes of Sparks's edition contain 
many more changes in the text than the later volumes. 
It is possible that this was due to an improvement in 
Washington's letter- writing art. He was largely self- 
taught, and having been through the highest ranks of 
military and political authority, he would naturally 
have acquired facility in expression. Possibly, also. 
Sparks was a little awed by the high station Washing- 


ton held and did not discover as much to correct in 
the letters of a commander-in-chief as in those of a 
backwoods colonel. 

Still another possibility suggests itself. Sparks was 
aided in his editorial work by Samuel Atkins Eliot, 
his warm admirer and generous friend. Eliot was a 
Harvard graduate of the class of 1817. He was a 
business man of rather daring methods, who at that 
time was dazzling the Boston circles by his successes. 
He was a good friend of learning and his interest 
in the Washington papers is shown by the free manner 
in which he advanced money to promote their publi- 
cation. But he was not suited by training for the 
work of editing them. Yet to him Sparks intrusted 
the selection of the letters in the first four manuscript 
volumes. The following letter, written while Sparks 
was in Europe, shows in what light Eliot regarded his 
task : 

"The four volumes of Washington's letters which you left with 
me to select from and copy are ready, with all the notes and illus- 
trations which seem necessary ; which are very few, for the letters 
explain themselves very much, leaving only enough to the imagina- 
tion of the reader to exercise it agreeably. I think you have 
rather overestimated the amount of those letters. With all the 
requisite notes they will hardly cover two hundred and fifty pages, 
or about half a volume ; and the sources of information with regard 
to his early life, before the commencement of his letters, are so 
extremely meagre that three hundred pages will be enough for 
everytliing as far as the years 1758-59, and from there to the 
Revolution ten lines will tell the whole story, and as I think it very 
important to compress the work, as far as is consistent with the 
purpose of giving a full and true view of Wasliington's character 


and mind, I was quite pleased to find that such was the state of 
tiie case. They are admirable letters, and consideruig his time of 
life, the character he had already established was wonderful." ^ 

Eliot continued to give assistance after Sparks's 
return from Europe, and his letters show that he was 
"even more zealous than Sparks for the reputation of 
Washington." - Knowing these facts, the question 
arises : Was it Eliot or Sparks who made the large 
number of excisions in these early letters.'^ There is 
no way of answering the question, since the corre- 
spondence that is preserved gives no clew that is reli- 
able. But the fact that two men were concerned with 
it, at least raises a puzzling doubt in the mind of the 
critic ; although it must not be forgotten that as Sparks 
intrusted the task to Eliot he was responsible for any 
deficiency that may have ensued. 

The Sparks-Mahon controversy attracted attention 
widely in the United States and in England. It divided 
the historians into a Sparks and an anti-Sparks group, 
and it left a cloud on the reputation of the editor of 
the works of Washington that has not yet been re- 
moved. One of his best defenders was John Gorham 
Palfrey, a classmate at Harvard and a lifelong friend. 
He wrote for the North American Review a long criti- 
cism of Mahon's history.^ We may imagine with 
what glee he discovered that the noble author had 

1 Eliot, S. A. to Sparks, Nov. 25, 1828. Sparks MSS : quoted in Adams, 
" Life of Sparks," II, 2G7. 

^ Adams, "Life of Sparks," II, 268. 
» Volume LXXV. 


written with very imperfect knowledge of affairs in 
the American colonies. Taking advantage of his 
opportunity Palfrey proceeded to riddle the narrative, 
pronouncing it inadequate and badly balanced. He 
charged Mahon with minimizing the part played by 
the colonials in the Seven Years' War, with failure to 
do justice to Washington, with ignoring the part New 
England played in resisting the Stamp Act, and with 
doing many other things equally bad from an American 
point of view. 

Having thus laid the foundation by putting Mahon 
in the wrong on matters of history, Palfrey took up 
Sparks's defense. He skillfully crushed the criticism 
that additions had been made, and came blandly to 
the assertion that omissions and corrections were also 
made. As to omissions, of course there were omis- 
sions ! Washington's letters were numerous enough 
to fill forty volumes. No publisher would undertake 
an edition of that size. As to the corrections, Palfrey 
said much about the correction of spelling and trivial 
errors of grammar. The corrections which Mahon 
called "embellishments" were justified in a cloud of 
general phrases, skillfully constructed to minimize 
the importance of any changes whatever. Palfrey's 
defense at this point was constructed in the manner 
of an advocate. 

The real question in connection with Sparks's editing 
is this : Should letters and other papers be published- 
with absolute exactness, or should the editor be allowed 


the liberty of changing the text in such a manner as 
seems to him fair to the writer. In our own day no 
reputable editor would oppose exact reproduction, 
but in Sparks's day it was otherwise. Some men, it is 
true, like Ebenezer Hazard and Jeremy Belknap, were 
for exact reproduction, but the majority were for dress- 
ing up the letters so that they should not appear 
indecent. Palfrey, in the article just cited, thus 
states the function of the editor : 

The great public has a prurient curiosity to see a great man in 
dishabille. If, being a good thinker, he has sometimes used bad 
reasonings, — if, being or not being a good scholar, he has made 
some lapses in spelling, grammar, rhetoric, or recollection of facts, 
there is a sort of satisfaction to readers in having them exposed, 
and in having opportunity afforded to exercise their own critical 
gifts, and to feel, so far, their own superiority. If hasty opinions, 
alien from the usual habits of thought, have somehow been put on 
record ; if some petulant expression has been used, out of harmony 
with the cliaracteristic style of comment and intercourse ; if some- 
tliing which the man kept to himself, during his life, can be got at, 
now that he is no longer here to protect it, there is many a reader 
who especially rejoices in such spoil. 

"How far is that taste to be accommodated, by one who has an 
editor's responsibility for a great renown ? If a man may reason- 
ably dislike the thought of having his dead body exposed to a mob 
of students on a dissecting table, has he no privileges whatever of 
exemption from a vulgar exposure of his mind?" 

These considerations had great weight in Sparks's 
day. It was generally accepted that the mind of the 
great should be exposed decently if exposed at all. 
We have in this connection the following statement 
from Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson : 


"It is only very lately that there has come to be any strict sense 
of the value of a quotation mark. Bancroft, Hildreth, Frothing- 
ham (R.) all revised their quotations without saying so ; Professor 
E. T. Channing in his life of William Ellery did the same thing; 
and his nephew, my cousin, William Henry Channing, did the 
same thing constantly in the Memoirs of Margaret Fuller, of which 
I have the MS. letters and diaries he used. It has only been out- 
grown since the habit came up of printing verbatim et literatim." ^ 

Let us give Sparks all that is here claimed for him. 
Let us grant that he never consciously changed the 
sense of a letter and that if in his edition we do not 
get the exact sense of the writer, it is because he erred 
in judgment. It remains to be said that in Sparks's 
day, in spite of Colonel Higginson's assertion, the 
belief that historical materials should be printed with- 
out alterations had already secured recognition in 
the world. The best editors in Europe had adopted 
that method, and in the United States, Peter Force 
was employing it in his researches. The necessity 
for exactness in reproducing letters destined to become 
historical materials is as old as the impulse to discover 
historical truth. Employing Palfrey's figure, the mind 
of an historical personage, preserved in his letters, 
should be presented to the student of history in its 
nakedness, and it is for the student to treat it with 
respect. If he fails, the shame is the student's, not 
the editor's. 

Perhaps Sparks did not think about the student 
of history. There is much to show that he expected 

1 Adams, "Life of Sparks," II, 272, n. 1. 


his work to be read by the people. He thought that 
he was appeahng to a popular audience ; and for such 
readers it was in keeping with his design to "embel- 
lish" and correct, lest the people should lower their 
respect for great men. 

One other charge against Sparks, the editor, must 
be taken up separately. Its import was that he 
omitted from Washington's letters expressions unfavor- 
able to New England men. In a letter from the com- 
mander-in-chief to Richard Henry Lee, August 29, 
1775, occurs the following passage : 

"As we have now nearly compleated our Lines of Defence, we 
have nothing more, in my opinio?i to fear from the Enemy, pro- 
vided we can keep our men to their duty and make them watchful 
and vigilant ; but it is among the most difficult tasks I ever under- 
took in my life to induce these people to believe that there is, or 
can be, danger till the Bayonet is pushed at their Breasts ; not 
that it proceeds from any uncommon prowess, but rather from an 
imaccountable kind of stupidity in the lower class of these people 
which, believe me, prevails but too generally among the officers 
of the Massachusetts part of the Army who are nearly of the same 
kidney with the privates, and adds not a little to my difficulties ; 
as there is no such thing as getting of officers of this stamp to exert 
themselves in carrying orders into execution — to curry favor with 
the men (by whom they were chosen & on whose smiles possibly 
they may think they may again rely) seems to be one of the prin- 
cipal objects of their attention." ' 

This passage was omitted from Sparks's edition. 
Badly expressed as it was, a zealous editor might have 
cut it out through tenderness for Washington's reputa- 
tion as a writer, but such a reason is hardly probable. 

^ Ford, Editor, "Writings of Washington," III, 96. 


Since it gives an important view of the situation in 
the new army before Boston, there was every reason 
that it should have been left in the letter. 

Another book in the editing of which the critics 
have found many errors was the "Diplomatic Corre- 
spondence of the Revolution." This was a subsidized 
publication, issued under a contract by which the 
federal government purchased one thousand copies 
of each of the twelve octavo volumes, paying $2.12^ 
a volume. It was a work of reference for historical 
students and was not written to show what Eliot 
called "a full and true view of Washington's character 
and mind." In such a series of documents nothing 
but an exact reproduction of the text should have 
been considered for a moment. Yet here, also, Sparks 
took many liberties with the text. 

His errors were so striking that in 1888 a congres- 
sional committee on printing took up the question of 
providing a new edition. Its report showed that he 
had omitted letters bearing on the attempts in 1776- 
77 of French and American politicians to secure the 
removal of Washington as Commander-in-chief and 
the substitution of Marshal Broglie in his place, as 
well as letters in which was evidence bearing on the 
atrocities of the British troops and the tories in the 
United States during the revolution. Many of his 
excisions were in letters that referred to the fisher- 
ies, a subject that engaged the attention of later diplo- 
mats most frequently. One of the omissions pointed 


out by the committee was made in a letter from Silas 
Deane, December 6, 1776, sent when De Kalb came 
to America. It contained the suggestion that Broglie 
be placed at the head of the army, but this part was 
cut out by Sparks, and the letter when published was 
only a letter of introduction. There were also, said 
the committee, many small changes in the words, 
made to "embellish" the language. The report of 
the committee led congress to order a new edition to 
be brought out under the editorship of Francis "Whar- 
ton, solicitor of the state department. It appeared 
in 1889, immediately after the death of the editor. 
The proofs were read by John Bassett Moore. 

Sparks's Diplomatic Correspondence was criticized 
soon after it was published, and the criticism brought 
forth a reply which may be cited as his own view of his 
task. "I was employed," he said, "to publish a 
selection from the Diplomatic Papers in the Department 
of State. I acted under specific instruction for that 
object. ... In making the selection, it is true, 
my judgment was to be the guide, aided by such partic- 
ular and general instructions as were given to me. 
The nature of the undertaking rendered this necessary. 
I explained my method in the fullest and clearest 
manner in the preface to the first volume. This was 
never disapproved by my employers ; nor was it ever 
hinted to me that I had misunderstood my instruc- 
tions, or in any degree deviated from them." ^ This 

1 Adams, "Life of Sparks," II, 157, n. 1. 


defense does not exculpate. An editor is judged by 
the standards he himself sets up, not those of a public 
official. Moreover, in all Sparks's extensive corre- 
spondence there is no evidence that he had specific 
directions on this point. It is fair to assume that 
his instructions left him liberty to do all he was criti- 
cized for not doing. 

It would be unfair to Sparks the editor to dismiss 
him without emphasizing the fact that he did a great 
service to historical research, in spite of his faults. 
While we have had to re-edit what he edited, we have 
not lost the influence of his pioneer work. He, more 
than anyone else of his day, aroused the public to an 
appreciation of the publication of documents. Peter 
Force, who had better editorial habits, had not as 
great an influence on his age. Moreover, it seems a 
fair assumption that he was set to work by Sparks's 
example. Sparks was so nearly an excellent editor, 
that we are justified in giving him the benefit of that 
charity to which every pioneer is entitled. He lived 
up to a standard which the world was in the act of 
laying aside, and it was his misfortune that he re- 
tained the old. Those who have come after him, and 
are warned by the example of his failure, deserve little 
credit for avoiding his mistakes. Few of them are 
his equal in breadth of knowledge, industry, and the 
willingness to undertake and carry through great 
enterprises, qualities which are essential in a great 


7. Sparks' s Methods of Working 

To understand Jared Sparks we must not think 
of him as a bookworm. Like most of the New England 
school to which he belonged, Emerson, Edward Everett, 
Bancroft, and Palfrey, he began life as a minister. 
As such he was interested in the varied affairs of life 
around him. He was a member of a serious and gentle 
group of men and women who loved to read good books 
and to talk with intellectual people. He accepted 
the ideals of the community in which he lived. In 
his age a radical was not popular in New England. 

From Professor Andrews Norton, of Harvard, a 
member of the group of ministers with whom Sparks's 
early life was thrown, we have an interesting estimate 
of the literary function of a minister. He wrote from 
New York, January 6, 1820 : 

" The literature in any place depends much upon the character 
of its clergymen, and upon the specimens of correct thought and 
sentiment and expression, which they afford in their weekly dis- 
courses; and upon the enlargement of mind produced by just 
views of religion. As for the present clergy of this place, I have 
been led to form not a very favorable opinion of the character of 
the majority of their number considered in any respect. The 
standard of preaching appears to be very low; and the standard 
of moral honesty, to judge from some anecdotes which I have 
heard, almost on a level with it." * 

In Sparks's day history had not become a matter 
of "movements," "forces," and "problems." The 

1 To Sparks, Sparks MSS. Professor Norton was the father of Charles 
Eliot Norton. 


monograph was not yet acclimated in our country. 
Minute research had not at that time taken the place 
of proportion. History was a thing of human activities 
to be dressed in flowing robes and with due attention 
to the harmonies. A historian took for his subject a 
general field or some series of events with the idea of 
making a narrative rather than an interpretation of 
causes and effects. Sparks did not reject the old way, 
although he was not the man to carry it to the best 
success. In fact, he was in a sense one of the first 
of a new school. 

This is especially shown in his "Life of Washington." 
Here is a book written in immediate juxtaposition 
with the documents. Designed for volume one of the 
"Washington" it was the last published, being kept 
back in order that the author might have the benefit 
of his study of the letters before he wrote the book. 
It is sound, concise, and dull. It ushered in a new 
school. Sparks was not a vivacious writer, like Ban- 
croft. It was not in him to write a sprightly book, 
perhaps. But in some of the biographies he wrote 
clear and easy narrative. In the " Life of Benedict 
Arnold" he is particularly interesting. He was in 
that book dealing with a closely connected and rather 
dramatic story, the very vividness of which carried 
him on. In the "Life of Washington" he was swamped 
by facts. They crowded into his mind and mastered 
it, a great army of facts ranged in even ranks. He 
knew his facts, but he did not master them. 


Sparks trusted himself entirely to history. It 
would have been easy to continue his connection with 
the North American Review, retaining a part of the 
salary that had been paid, and giving most of his 
time to the historical research that he loved. But he 
threw himself without reserve into the new field that 
called to him. It is true that he was very well estab- 
lished in life. His profits on the Review were $9,100, 
besides such savings as he had made out of his salary, 
and he was a bachelor. At that time an unmarried 
man whose income was two thousand dollars a year 
need not feel embarrassed in the most select circle of 
Boston. The following extract from his diary, July 
15, 1826, has interest in this connection: "Removed 
to my new quarters in the house occupied by Dr. 
Walter Channing, Common Street corner of School 
Street — I have taken two rooms of Dr. Channing, 
for which I am to give him $250 a year. My arrange- 
ment is to breakfast in my rooms and dine abroad." ^ 
Dr. Channing was a young physician, a bachelor also, 
and shared his house with one or two friends. His 
marriage in 1831 made it necessary for Sparks to find 
other quarters. 

Literature as a profession suggests garrets and crack- 
ers in most cases. To Sparks it meant no such thing. 
He believed he could make a living out of it, and he 
made more than a living. He had a good appreciation 
of that which the public will read. Many a young 

1 Sparks MSS. 


historian to-day becomes discouraged because his 
book does not sell, without realizing that he has written 
upon a subject in which he cannot expect a large 
number of people to be interested. Sparks gave as 
careful thought to the selection of his field as to the 
work he did in it. He had, also, the rare opportunity 
to select the best field open to a historian in his day, 
Washington and the other revolutionary leaders were 
ready for some such treatment as he gave them. His 
friends congratulated him that he was to pass into 
history in honorable and intimate connection with 
the Father of his Country. But his success was not 
accidental. He did not stumble into his field. In 
fact, the field had lain fallow inviting exploitation 
for many years before he turned into it. Many other 
men had passed it by unnoticed, as good fields are 
always being passed unnoticed. It was a part of 
Sparks's genius as a historian that he saw the oppor- 
tunity to enter a self-supporting career and accepted it. 
In proportion to the labor expended on it, the 
"Diplomatic Correspondence" was probably the most 
remunerative of Sparks's undertakings. For the thou- 
sand sets of twelve volumes each which he sold to the 
government he received $30,300, in which was included 
$4,800 for editorial services at $400 a volume. Of the 
$25,500 paid to Sparks for the copies themselves a 
large part was profit. We have no estimate on which 
to depend at this point; but Clarke and Force's 
contract for the "American Archives" was based on 


Sparks's contract for the "Diplomatic Correspond- 
ence," and they estimated that their own work would 
cost to manufacture a little less ^ than half the amount 
they were to receive. If this is a guide for us in the 
matter, we may estimate that the cost of the "Diplo- 
matic Correspondence" was not more than $15,000, 
and if that is true Sparks's profits must have been as 
great, including his reward for editorial work. The 
twelve volumes were issued within eighteen months, 
and for the day the enterprise was very profitable. 

The " Washington " was not as profitable as was ex- 
pected. We have seen that in 1852 more than 7000 
sets had been sold with royalty at two dollars and 
fifty cents a set. Half the proceeds of the eleven vol- 
umes of "Writings" were to go to the Washington 
heirs. Sparks received all the royalty on the "Life 
of Washington" and the book sold more freely than 
the "Writings." There was, also, an "Abridged 
Life," the sales of which rose to 5,500 copies by 1852. 
From his other works the income must have been 

Sparks tried to make literature pay, and he achieved 
success. Although the panic of 1837 swept away 
a large part of his fortune, he recovered himself 
and lived in comfort. The task was made easy, how^- 
ever, by the fact that in 1839 he became a profes- 
sor at Harvard and served in that capacity and as 
president until 1853. He also had a fair income from 

* See below, pages 249-251. 


lectures. Unfortunately we have no means of know- 
ing the amount of his later literary income. 

It is interesting to find in the life of Sparks the same 
problem of adjusting his time to the social demands of 
a pleasant city environment that many another scholar 
of the present day has to encounter. Anxious friends 
urged him to relax by taking walks before dinner and 
by going into society. He was a man of steady habits, 
and it is probable that most of such advice was lost 
upon him. He arose early and worked hard from 
breakfast until dinner. At that time the dinner 
hour in Boston was from three to four o'clock in the 
afternoon, an arrangement that lent itself to long hours 
of labor, with social intercourse after they were finished. 

In his study was a high desk at which he wrote 
standing, a custom which had the advantage of giving 
exercise of the body in an otherwise sedentary occupa- 
tion. As a correspondent he generally expressed him- 
self seriously ; certainly he lacked the sparkle that 
made Bancroft's letters so vivid. But in one at least 
of his letters he gives us a charming view of his daily 
life at his tall desk. "My window," he said, "over- 
looks Charlestown, Cambridge, and the whole country 
round, and I see all that is to be seen. The famous 
house in Chelsea,^ with all the trees in the town, is 
in full sight, and this moment I see the ferry-boat just 

^ The reference was to the family home of his correspondent. The letter 
was written in 1824, which was before he moved to the house occupied by 
Dr. Channing. See Adams, "Life of Sparks," I, 353. 


landing at the wharf. Five or six days ago I saw the 
Battle of Bunker Hill fought over again, while stand- 
ing as I do now at my desk, and a noisy time it was ; 
the wooden monument on the 'awful mount' was 
shaken to its centre, and the mount itself trembled. 
Do you not think I have seen wonders .^^ And yet I 
have told you nothing of the great doings of election 
week, when we had three or four sermons every day, 
and the ministers walked in a procession, and held 
counsels and looked very grave, and did exactly what 
their forefathers did a hundred and fifty years ago." 

Here is a human touch of another kind, taken from 
a letter from Dr. Channing, his bachelor lodging 
chum, who was writing to welcome Sparks home from 
Europe : 

"I offer you a sincere welcome to your home and your friends. 
Your old room is friendly [?], and exactly where and what it was, 
and altogether at your services whenever you will come to it. My 
establishment entirely remains as it was. My brother, Mr. J. 
Perkms, has a small room alone, and a charming fellow, Mr. Ed. 
Lowell, is in the back room on the same floor with you. There are 
recent additions : the old and more important matters to true 
bachelor house-keeping are all as you left them, except the fair 
Clara. Mrs. Bell, her sister, a nice buxome body, has [arrived] 
and well fills her place. But come again, I hope soon, and we will 
talk when others sleep, smoke when others are unconscious of 
breathing, — and drink scuppernong, or mountain dew to the good 
} ,'alth of the morning star as in the oUen time." ' 

Scuppernong wine is made in the South from the 
native scuppernong grape, and Sparks had evidently 

» May 13, 1829. Sparks MSS. 


learned to like it while in that part of the country. 
Hominy was another Southern dish that he learned 
to like in the South. He had it sent to him after his 
return to Boston. In his correspondence is a letter 
from the Rev. F. W. P. Greenwood, his successor in 
the Baltimore church, and from it the following extract 
is taken, partly to show the humanity of Sparks, to 
whom the letter was written, and partly to show the 
humanity of Puritan ministers in the days before the 
temperance movement had made headway. Green- 
wood writes from Baltimore to his friend in Boston : 

"I have attended to your commission. Last week I went down 
to N. F. William's store, with Mr. Nathl. Wfilliams], and we saw 
the wine and the whiskey packed up ready for transportation. 
There are twenty bottles of the former, that is to say four gallons, 
& I believe 16 bottles of the latter, half of which is from my host, 
Mr. Nat., who wishes you to say which you think best, that marked 
O, or that marked W. The barrel in which they are packed is 
directed to the care of French & Weld. My debt to you on account 
of the Bossuet is now, I think, discharged. The wine, you know, 
was 5 dollars a gallon." ^ 

The early life of Sparks was clouded by the pre- 
vailing opinion in regard to his birth. His mother's 
husband, whose name the historian bore, was a man of 
humble position, and Mrs. Sparks bore him several 
children after their marriage, none of them attaining 
positions higher than that of their parents. With them 
Jared Sparks could have little sympathy. He visited 

1 January 6, 1824. Sparks MSS. Nathaniel Williams was one of the 
trustees of the Unitarian Church in Baltimore. 


them seldom ; but he supported his mother in comfort 
as long as she lived. Hubbel Loomis, the pastor at 
Willington, and schoolmaster to all the Sparks chil- 
dren, as well as to a host of others, acted as intermedi- 
ary in providing for the support of Mrs. Sparks. Many 
letters are preserved from Loomis to the historian, in 
which we have a picture of the simple home in the 
village. It reflects credit on the sincere mind of their 
recipient that he did not destroy them but preserved 
them in the great collection, which his historic sense 
must have told him would go into the hands of the 
future historian. From one of these letters is taken 
the following account of the doings of the Sparks family 
in 1825 : 

"The family are in good health and have quite as comfortable 
prospects as most families in town. Daniel, you probably know, is 
in New York. Origen has been at home since November, and is 
this summer putting up a house in this [village] for Daniel Glazier, 
Esqr. Caleb is at Sharon in Vermont, with Freeman Holt, learn- 
ing the clothier's trade in the winter and farming in the summer. 
Soliman is at Vernon in this county, working upon a farm by the 
six months. Joseph works with his Father. They are all, I 
believe, sober, prudent, and industrious, and promise to be repu- 
table in society." ^ 

Of Mrs. Sparks the kind-hearted minister wrote in 
the following year as follows : 

"It is, however, doubtful whether an increased expenditure will 
contribute materially to her comfort. She has at no time failed of 
receiving all the money that she intimated she wanted ; and almost 
constantly I have had some money of yours in my hand." - 

1 April 20, 1825. Sparks MSS. ^ January 4, 1826. Sparks MSS. 


He added that her nervous depression made her very 
melancholy, and that she was a great care to her 
daughter, Roxana, whose constancy he frequently 
praised. No letters from his mother are preserved 
in the large number left by Sparks, and as he got his 
regular information from Loomis, it is fair to assume 
that she did not send any. Many of our greatest 
Americans have come up from very humble origins, 
and we are very indulgent to such men. To them, 
as to Sparks, low birth but enhances their triumph 
over adversity ; for if it is well to achieve great things 
when ushered into the world under favorable auspices, 
it is better to achieve them when the start in life is 
hampered by difficulties. 

8. College Professor and President 

Sparks had the same interest in education that a 
group of young Harvard men of his day felt, who 
longed to revise the methods of instruction in Ameri- 
can colleges. Ticknor, Bancroft, Cogswell, Edward 
Everett, S. A. Eliot, and many others of the younger 
men of learning around Cambridge felt that the old 
habit of assigning lessons on which the students were 
to recite as the sole evidence of their progress was 
antiquated. They wished to secure the introduction 
of methods used in the German universities, lectures 
by men full of their subjects, who could stimulate the 
students to research and wide reading. Sparks ap- 
proved this movement in a general way, but it did 


not impress him very strongly until his visit to Europe 
in 1828 gave him full opportunity to see how much 
American colleges were behind European institutions. 
He returned with dreams of improvement, unburden- 
ing himself to George Bancroft in the following words : 

"It is a great mistake, however, to call any of our institutions 
by the name of universities. They are neither such, nor can ever 
be, without a radical change. They are mere schools, and always 
must be schools, while the present system of mingling dogged reci- 
tations and lectures (so called) in the same course of education 
[continues]. I do not believe, that a university can be engrafted 
on any of our old colleges. Something must be done de novo, before 
any success can be hoped. There are so many shackles on Harvard, 
growing out of old usages, grants of money for specific purposes, 
and a complicated machinery of government, that you and all the 
world must despair of building it up into a university. The lower, 
or the school-part of this seminary is an inherent ingredient and 
must from the necessity of the case keep down the upper, or 
university -part. Neither money, nor talents, nor both combined, 
can remedy this defect. Now let us have a university without the 
school-part ; let us have an establishment where we can teach young 
men something about the operations of their own minds, the doings 
of the world, and the business of life. Europe is full of such insti- 
tutions : it is time for one at least in America." ' 

These observations were well taken, so far as they 
dealt with general educational conditions in the United 
States when they were made. But it was a long time 
before the one real university that Sparks longed for 
was established. His own interest in the matter 
was soon eclipsed by the literary and editorial work 
that crowded upon him. 

1 Sparks to Bancroft, June 10, 1829. Bancroft MSS. 


Sparks's interest in teaching history in the colleges 
was akin to his general interest in education. He was 
called on for advice from at least two quarters in 1835, 
which shows that he was considered an authority on 
the subject. He appealed to Ticknor, who was travel- 
ing in Europe, to gather information for him on the 
teaching of history by lectures. Ticknor's reply was 
not reassuring, so far as the British universities were 
concerned. Professor Smyth, of Cambridge, gave him 
no hope of reformation from the two English uni- 
versities. Ticknor himself said he would get abundant 
information in Germany, where the work of Heeren 
was probably best worth while. He added : "Nothing 
would be more effective in promoting the usefulness 
of any college among us than to have history, statistics, 
and geography in its philosophical as well as its practi- 
cal extent, thoroughly taught by lectures, accompanied 
with maps, etc., as is done at every university in Ger- 
many and most of the gymnasiums. But this cannot 
be done with us, as long as every student is obliged to 
go through every study, — a point I have struggled 
against so long that I am, as you know, tired out, and 
the result of which plainly is that no new branches, 
however useful, can now be introduced, nor any of 
the old ones carried out to practical thoroughness." ^ 

In 1836 Sparks was offered the Alford professorship 
at Harvard. The subjects included were moral philos- 
ophy, metaphysics, natural theology, political econ- 

* Adams, "Life of Sparks," II, 363. 


omy, and civil polity. Two things caused him to 
decline the offer : he was too busy with other things, 
and he did not like "the routine of a college life as 
practised in our universities." To President Quincy 
he said that a professorship of history would be more 
to his liking, and the president said he hoped that 
Sparks would yet become connected with the uni- 
versity. In 1838 President Quincy reopened the 
question, this time offering the newly established 
McLean professorship of history. The offer was 
taken under consideration, and immediately the over- 
seers voted to elect him. It was not until he had 
given the matter a long and careful consideration that 
Sparks finally accepted the position. His doubts 
were due to the fear that professorial duties might 
interfere with historical labors ; and it was only when 
concessions were made by which such interference 
was made unnecessary that he consented. It was 
agreed that his duties were not to demand more than 
four months in each year, that his lectures should 
all come within that time, and that he should have the 
rest of the year for his own plans. The salary was 
two thousand dollars a year, and the position to which 
he was called was the first professorship of history 
in an American college. 

Up to 1838 the history taught in Harvard, as in 
other similar American institutions, was a small amount 
of general and ancient history, taught by tutors or 
instructors, generally to the members of the Fresh- 


man and Sophomore classes. The McLean professor 
was to have work of a higher and more advanced kind, 
and his students were to be upper classmen. As 
Sparks himself put it, "Mr. Quincy said it was not 
proposed that I should have anything to do in the way 
of teaching by recitation from books. Occasional 
examinations and lectures were proposed. For any- 
thing else I am not to be responsible. Let the tutors 
drill the boys." ^ 

Sparks assumed the duties of his professorship on 
March 12, 1839, giving this term one course of lectures 
on the American Revolution, from 1763 to 1783. "I 
have adopted," he said, "Botta's history as a text- 
book, because I can procure no other ; all the other 
histories of the same period being out of print. Once 
a week I shall read to the class written lectures ; that 
is, one of the three weekly exercises will be of this sort. 
My object is to communicate instruction in all the 
exercises, and not merely to discipline the students in 
the habits of study, which has been done suflBciently 
in the early part of their college life." ^ In the fol- 
lowing years two courses, instead of one, were given, 
on several subjects. It seems that the lecturer did 
not take his responsibility for the students very seri- 
ously. He was not a pioneer in any but a temporal 
sense. He filled the first distinct chair of history in 
the United States, without exerting a deep influence 

^ H. B. Adams, "History in American Colleges and Universities," 21. 
^ Adams, "Life of Sparks," II, 375. 


on it ; and it was for his successors, men of less renown 
as writers, to give to history teaching at Harvard that 
pecuhar stamp of excellence which is to-day known in 
all the scholastic world. 

Success as a historian and success as schoolmaster 
require such distinct qualities of mind that it is rare 
to find them in the possession of one person. Love of 
detail, patience in drill, the power of pressing laggards 
to action, and a tendency to consider small things 
equally important with large things, are essential to 
success in the schoolroom : the power of seeing facts 
in large relations, the willingness to lose touch with 
human nature while the libraries and garrets are ran- 
sacked for sources : — in short, many traits which make 
a man seem queer, inconsequential, dreamy, or ab- 
stracted in comparison with ordinary men are too often 
the characteristics of a successful writer of history. 
Certain it is, that Sparks did not make himself a terror 
to his students. He disliked examinations as much 
as they, going on the basis of many another theorist 
that learning should be sought for its own sake. He 
proved himself, says Professor Adams, "a genial, 
kindly, and extremely popular man, both as professor 
and president." The students felt that he was on 
their side, and he yielded to their sense of well being 
rather than set up standards by which they were to be 
moulded into ideals higher than those he found in them. 

In Sparks we have an early instance of the union, 
so common in our own day, of the functions of historian 


and history teacher in one man. This custom has 
for its excuse the difficulty a man finds in making a 
Hving out of history alone. But it is not an ideal 
system. Let him teach who can best teach, and let 
him write who can best write, would be the guarantee 
of the best teaching and the best writing. 

In June, 1840, the McLean professor, his lectures at 
college over for the year, sailed for London to gather 
materials. "Having finished," he wrote, "the lit- 
erary undertakings which have been so long on my 
hands, what could I do better than to engage in 
another? I am preparing to write a formidable his- 
tory of the American Revolution." The friends he 
had made in 1828 received him kindly, the records 
were again placed at his disposal, and he spent five 
happy months going through documents and ordering 
copies in London and Paris. Lord Holland asked 
him if he wished to be introduced at court. "I told 
him," runs the diary, "that I had no such wish; that 
my objects in coming to London were of a specific 
kind, which if I could accomplish, I should be satisfied, 
but that going to court would not contribute to advance 
them ; and that my curiosity did not lead that way." ^ 

In the French archives he found a letter from Frank- 
lin to Vergennes, dated December 6, 1782, six days 
after the preliminary treaty of peace was signed, an- 
nouncing that the writer was transmitting inclosed 
a map on which were marked in a red line the bound- 

1 Adams, " Life of Sparks," II, 380. 


aries fixed by the treaty just agreed upon. In 1841 
the Northeastern boundary question was acute, and 
Sparks began to look for the inclosure. After much 
searching he found a map with the boundaries marked 
by a red line drawn in ink ; but it had nothing to show 
that it was the identical map that Franklin sent to 
Vergennes, although it was the only map to be found 
with the boundaries drawn in red ink. Moreover, the 
red line was so drawn as to favor the British bound- 
ary contention. Sparks took accurate copies of map 
and letter, and took them with him when he returned 
to Boston. He submitted them to Webster, who used 
them to restrain the enthusiasm of the politicians of 
Maine, the information, meanwhile, being withheld 
from the public. Webster concluded the treaty to 
which his name is attached, gaining for the United 
States more than half of the disputed area. 

Soon after the treaty was signed it became known 
that Sparks had furnished Webster with a map accord- 
ing to which we had made a shrewd bargain. The 
news was carried to London, where much indignation 
was felt. Sparks, so recently admitted to the public 
archives, now appeared as a chief witness for his gov- 
ernment in a great boundary dispute. It was inti- 
mated that he had drawn from those archives evidence 
that was used against a government which had trusted 
him completely. This damaging charge was widely 
spread in England, and it was long accepted as true; 
but there is no reason to believe that Sparks used 


the information he secured in the public offices in 
England for any other than historical purposes. 

Later developments took away some of the feeling 
against him by showing that the red-line map was, 
after all, of little significance. The discovery of a 
map in the king's library, on which Oswald, one of the 
British commissioners making the treaty of 1782, had 
drawn a boundary line nearly coincident with the 
American claim, a map on which was written in King 
George's own hand "boundary described by Mr. 
Oswald," showed conclusively that our claim had 
been much better than the Paris map seemed at first 
to indicate. The discovery reduced Sparks's red- 
line map to a matter of no importance. Sparks, how- 
ever, would not admit that the maps had any bear- 
ing on the controversy. There was, he said, no reason 
for holding that Oswald's map described the boundary 
actually agreed upon. He dismissed the subject in 
saying : *' These two maps, therefore, leave the matter 
just where it was before they were discovered." ^ 

In 1849 Sparks was elected president of Harvard 
University, succeeding Edward Everett, president 
from 1846 to 1849. When first approached on the 
subject, he said that he could not charge himself with 
the "mass of small details, which properly belonged 
to the subordinate instructors," and he added that if 
he accepted some changes would have to be made in 
the curriculum, "particularly in what is called the 

* Adams, "Life of Sparks," II, 411. 


'Elective System'." Assured that these diflBculties 
would be removed, he brought up another objection : 
*'I told him that I had also literary labors in hand, 
which I could not consent to relinquish, and that this 
should be fully understood by the corporation if they 
should think of electing me." ^ Again he was reas- 
sured and no further objection was made. At the 
inauguration he was inducted with great ceremony, 
a thing against which he protested ineffectually. To 
him faculty processions seemed tiresome, wasteful, 
and unimpressive. In investing the candidate the 
governor of Massachusetts, in alluding to Sparks's 
historical achievements, spoke as follows : 

"Having performed this service for history and for 
the literary world, and done justice to the memories 
of distinguished men, who have served their genera- 
tions well and passed away, it is appropriate that 
you should now come up to this seat of learning and 
enter upon the more important work of instructing 
the youth of the republic." ^ Probably most men 
in 1849 would have agreed that to teach was a more 
important work than writing history. 

Reference has already been made to the existence 
of two parties in the Harvard faculty. One, led by 
George Ticknor, demanded reforms in the course of 
instruction, and the other wished to hold in a measure 
to the old system. About 1838 the reformers suc- 
ceeded in getting two of their important ideas adopted. 

1 Adams, "Life of Sparks," II, 438 2 /ji^f.^ 443 


One was the introduction of a number of elective 
courses in all but the Freshman class. The other 
was the adoption of an idea which Bancroft and Ticknor 
had contended for as early as 1822, the division of the 
Freshman and Sophomore classes into divisions ac- 
cording to proficiency.^ Between 1838 and 1849 
several restrictions had been placed on the elective 
system, one of them being adopted in 1848. The 
recovery of influence in the faculty by those who fa- 
vored the old plan was coincident with the election of 
Sparks as president. He was opposed to the elective 
system, and his inaugural address left no doubt about 
his opinion in regard to it. But he did not go so far 
as to veto all electives. He recognized the terrors of 
mathematics, and he was not willing to force it on 
all students ; and some other features of the elective 
system continued to be tolerated. As for the division 
of the lower classes according to proficiency, it was 
abolished in favor of an alphabetical arrangement. 
Sparks said that the previous method sacrificed the 
poor students for the good. His opponents may as 
well have said that his method sacrificed the brilliant 
for the poor students. 

Sparks resigned the presidency of the university 
January 27, 1853, having held it four years and eight 
days. His short term had worn his spirits. He was 
not fitted for the many small duties of the oflBce, and 
in spite of his early resolutions he was overwhelmed 

J Bancroft to S. A. Eliot, Dec. 3, 1822. Bancroft MSS, Mass. Histl. Soc. 


with such details. There were letters to write to 
parents and to applicants for entrance, college disci- 
pline had to be supervised, and many tedious matters 
were thrust upon him. Such things were very uncon- 
genial to a man whose most devoted pursuits had been 
the collection and interpretation of historical docu- 
ments. His reports were well written, as became one 
who had such a grasp of statistics and historical narra- 
tive as he. But he was not at ease in the presidential 
chair. Moreover, bad health added to his distress. 
Neuralgia attacked his right arm, and in 1851 an acci- 
dent increased its lameness. Walking across Charles 
River bridge into Boston on a starlit evening, he was 
knocked down by a chaise carelessly driven at a rapid 
rate. His shoulder-bone was broken and his side 
severely bruised. Although these injuries yielded to 
treatment, the nerves seemed to be permanently 
injured, so that the neuralgia fastened itself more 
firmly in the right arm. One result was the impair- 
ment of his power to write. He was not able to accus- 
tom himself to dictation, and the large correspondence 
he carried on during his later years was the source of 
much pain in the actual performance. 

The domestic life of Jared Sparks was uneventful. 
Most of his literary work was done in the days of his 
bachelorhood. In 1832 he was married to Frances 
Anne Allen, of Hyde Park, New York, whom rapid 
tuberculosis took away in 1835. In 1839 he married 
Mary Crowninshield Silsbee, of Salem, Massachusetts, 


who survived him. To his own family, as to every 
one else, his actions were marked by singular courtesy 
and gentleness. His widow, who was his junior by 
twenty years, long lived in Cambridge in the comfort- 
able house he bought for her. She was most careful 
of his fame, and in her old age gave the most efficient 
encouragement to Professor Herbert B. Adams, whom 
she selected to write the "Life and Writings of Jared 
Sparks." ^ 

After retiring from the presidency of Harvard, Sparks 
lived quietly in Cambridge until his death in 1866. 
He published only one work in this interval, his "Cor- 
respondence of the American Revolution," in four 
volumes. Much of his time was given to answer- 
ing inquiries that came from every quarter. He was 
looked upon as the Nestor of American historians, and 
many a man called on him for information which 
could as easily have been had in an encyclopedia. 
To such requests Sparks gave free and generous re- 

It is seldom that an American historian has worn 
the harness of his profession until the last. Too often 
his last years are spent in some form of easy occupa- 
tion that leaves unemployed talents and information 
that are ripe for the best kind of results. Sparks, 
as has already been observed, was particularly liable 
to this charge. The last twenty-five years of the 
seventy-seven he lived, a period during which he was 

1 Published in 1893. 


the leading scholar in American history, were given 
over to things which a dozen other men could have 
done equally well. 

In the United States literary ambition is sometimes 
a means to an end. It is to the aspirant a means of 
securing wealth, personal influence, or professional 
appointments. When these ends are attained, liter- 
ature may be bowed into the attic. Such writers, 
historians or what not, are, intellectually speaking, 
nothing less than men of commerce. The real his- 
torians are those who love history for its own sake, 
who love it when they are old as when they were 
young, and whose best wish is that when death over- 
takes them it may find them in the harness of actual 
composition. To them history is a profession, a 
profession worthy of its hire, and in itself a sufficient 
reward for the hardest efforts. 

In the light of these observations, it is somewhat 
uncertain what should be said of Sparks. If he was 
attracted from his best field by the flattering prospect 
of the first distinct professorship of history in America, 
and still further by the offer of the presidency of the 
oldest American college, he did no more than many 
men would do to-day with less excuse. That he had 
in his early years an exalted appreciation of the intel- 
lectual life is seen in the following extract from a 
letter written in 1825 : 

"There is, as you intimate, very little harmony between riches 
and the love of letters. They can hardly dwell in the same house. 


It must be so ; it is a law of nature ; one deep passion drives away 
all others, and all experience testifies, that no love is more absorb- 
ing than that of riches. Yet there is nothing incompatible between 
wealth and wisdom, virtue, kindness, and good feeling. I see them 
every day united in an eminent degree. My absorbing passion is 
for books, knowledge, and thought ; and I would not exchange it 
for all the wealth of the Indies." ^ 

Sparks's fame would have been higher if he had re- 
mained true to the "absorbing passion" he here 

* Sparks to George Bancroft, Dec. 26, 1825. Sparks MSS. It is inter- 
esting to note that Bancroft himself became a rich man and divided his 
historical interest with politics and diplomacy. 

^ The Sparks Manuscripts 
The Sparks Manuscripts, preserved in the library of Harvard University, 
and open by his direction to all properly accredited students of history, are 
classified in one hundred and ninety-three bound volumes and bundles. 
They make one of the most valuable collections in the United States. 
They are arranged as English, French, Spanish, and Miscellaneous. A 
calendar was prepared by Justin Winsor, containing eighty-eight pages. It 
was published in the "Library of Harvard University, Bibliographical Con- 
tributions," No. 22, Cambridge, 1889. See also the "Catalogue of the 
Library of Jared Sparks," Cambridge, 1871, pp. 213-230, where there is a 
condensed list of the papers in the Sparks collection. 



1. Student and Schoolmaster 

George Bancroft, like Sparks, was the product of the 
early and enthusiastic phase of New England Unitari- 
anism. His father, Rev. Aaron Bancroft, was min- 
ister at Worcester, Massachusetts, and author of a 
Life of Washington widely read in his day and still 
found in the older libraries. His mother was a woman 
of strong character and excellent mind. The Worcester 
parsonage was the scene of frugality and liberal think- 
ing. Its head was never willing to admit that he was 
not a congregationalist, but he encouraged his children 
to solve their own problems in their own ways, and 
he himself was openly against Calvinism. 

His son George, born at Worcester, October 3, 1800, 
early gave promise of great ability. He was sent to 
Phillips Academy, at Exeter, New Hampshire, and in 
1813 entered Harvard, where he graduated in 1817, 
before he was seventeen years old. During his first 
and second years in residence Edward Everett, who 
himself had graduated with first honors at the age of 
seventeen, was teaching Latin and Greek. In 1815 
Everett sailed for Europe, returning in 1819, two of 
the intervening years having been passed at Gottingen. 



In Germany he remembered his able student at Har- 
vard and advised President Kirkland to send him to 
Gottingen. The result was that Harvard men raised 
a purse of seven hundred dollars a year for three years 
and to it added one thousand dollars for a year's travel 
in Italy and France, which, with the small amount — 
five hundred dollars — his father was able to add, suf- 
ficed for four years abroad.^ "Little Bancroft," as one 
of the other Americans at Gottingen called him,^ made 
a good impression on his professors and took the 
doctor's degree with credit in 1820. The next year 
was spent in Berlin where he attended lectures. In 
the summer of 1822 he returned to his father's home 
in Worcester. 

He found awaiting him a letter from Professor An- 
drews Norton, of Harvard, with an invitation to visit 
him in his home. The invitation was accepted and 
two weeks in Cambridge were divided equally between 
two hosts. President Kirkland and Professor Norton. 
On this visit Bancroft was offered and accepted the 
position of tutor in Greek at Harvard. He returned 
to Worcester full of happiness and confidence in his 
future. Soon came a letter from Norton which turned 
his joy into mourning. His own words written several 
months later contain our best intimation of what had 
happened. He wrote to a friend : 

1 President Kirkland to Bancroft, May 11, 1821. Bancroft MSS, Mass. 
Histl. See. 

^ Anna E. Ticknor, "Life of Joseph Green Cogswell," 107. 


" I had hardly been at home many days before I received a letter 
from Mr. Norton which contained the most unprovoked attack on 
my feeUngs and character, the most unfoimded censures and un- 
kind reproofs. You will smile perhaps at my calling the censures 
unfounded. I repeat it, however; they were unfounded. Never 
did one man more totally mistake the character of another than he 
did mine. Now you have been told that I was offended at this 
letter. I was not offended : I was wounded : my spirit almost bent 
beneath it. Why.'' First because Mr. Norton, I had believed, 
loved me, and I certainly loved him most sincerely ; and now in 
this letter he tells me he deems it 'desirable' that I should give over 
visiting at his house. Secondly, it is my misery to have lived on 
charity, while abroad, and Mr. Norton was one of those whose 
bread I ate — bitter enough is the taste of it in the belly." ' 

Bancroft kept many of his letters, but the cruel lines 
from Professor Norton are not among them, A copy 
of his reply, however, is preserved, and from it is taken 
this vigorous utterance : "Upon your house I shall not 
intrude : such is your desire : I comply with it ; I 
promise you I will never enter it except on a visit of 
duty or business, till you come to me and solicit it, as 
I expect you will do, when the future shall have shown 
you, that your views of my character are unjust." ^ 

No information is available on Norton's side of this 
affair. That he said, "You have disappointed me," 
we know from Bancroft himself. Perhaps we may un- 
derstand the matter better by remembering how formal 
were New Englanders a hundred years ago, Norton 
himself was of the straitest sect among his fellows, and 

1 Bancroft to S. A. Eliot, April 2, 1823. Bancroft MSS, Mass. Histl. 

2 Bancroft to Andrews Norton, Sept. 18, 1822. Bancroft MSS. 


he had early begun to suspect his protege of uncon- 
ventional ways. "Our society is such," he observed 
to Bancroft in 1821, "as to require an extraordinary 
degree of attention to manners, in order that one may 
be respectable and useful. . . . There is no place, I 
believe, where anything implying a considerable defect 
in character, anything like ostentation or vanity, any- 
thing outre or bizarre (if I may use two French words 
at once) is observed with a keener perception of ridi- 
cule, or tends more to the disadvantage of him in 
whom it is discovered." Bancroft might have replied 
that there were many New Englanders, among them 
President Kirkland and George Ticknor, to whom his 
manners were not repulsive. That such a man was 
offended in Bancroft is not surprising. The younger 
man possessed a very warm fancy ; florid phrases and 
figures of speech rolled from him as rapidly as duller 
words come from an ordinary man. In Europe he ac- 
quired many customs which in his enthusiasm he began 
to use among the friends of his youth. It is said that 
he greeted Professor Norton — of all men ! — in the 
European fashion, with a kiss on each cheek. The 
effect was consternation. 

This unpleasant turn of affairs did not serve as a 
warning to Bancroft. He was supremely confident of 
himself, he imitated the German professors in external 
matters, he carried himself with the air of a military 
man, he was very exacting of the students, and finally, 
he had decided ideas that the college was dying of anti- 


quated ideas. Everett and Ticknor had returned from 
Germany with no such affectations ; and their friends 
had remarked with dehght that they were unspoiled by 
their travels. Bancroft was so unlike them that the 
opinion spread rapidly that he was intolerable. He 
ventured to preach, but the hearers shook their heads, 
and in a few months his sermons were laid away never 
to be taken out again. 

How much Professor Norton's attitude had to do in 
the crystallization of this reputation does not appear. 
Certain it is that he did not do justice to the young 
man. Bancroft was a youth of great ability, he was 
very emotional and very desirous of success. A little 
more tolerance and patience, with some kind advice 
and the lapse of time, would have produced much im- 
provement. Norton was unyielding. Following the 
promptings of a peculiar kind of Puritan conscience, 
he held that a thing which was unpleasant had to be 
trampled on. He was an influential member of the 
faculty. Bancroft, on the other hand, was not dis- 
posed to benefit by opposition. When punished he 
rose in opposition to the chastisers ; and in Harvard he 
soon lay on a bed of thorns. 

Two broad-minded men there were who understood 
him and left testimonials of his good qualities, two 
besides George Ticknor, with whom he long maintained 
friendly intercourse. One was President Kirkland, 
who was ever generous to his junior faculty, as to 
all kinds of people. He made a strong impression 


on the heart of the young man, who, looking back in 
later life to those days of distress, recalled the kindness 
of his early friend by the establishment of the John 
Thornton Kirkland fellowship to aid worthy students 
studying in foreign countries. "To you, and to you 
altogether," said Bancroft, five years after he escaped 
out of his unhappiness at Harvard, "and to you alone 
do I hold myself indebted for all that renders my life 
useful and honourable." The other penetrating eye 
that saw beneath the mannerisms the redeeming traits 
of the young instructor was Ralph Waldo Emerson's. 
After hearing Bancroft preach in 1823 Emerson wrote : 

"I am happy to contradict the rumors about Bancroft. 1 heard 
him preach at New South a few Sabbaths since, and was much 
delighted with his eloquence. So were all. He needs a great deal 
of cutting and pruning, but we think him an infant Hercules. AU 
who know him agree in this, that he has improved his time thor- 
oughly at Gottingen. He has become a perfect Greek scholar, and 
knows well all that he pretends to know ; as to divinity, he has 
never studied, but was approbated abroad." ^ 

A man who "knows well all that he pretends to know" 
is a rare gift from the gods. 

It is hardly to be doubted that in 1822 the methods 
of instruction in American colleges were very unsatis- 
factory. Hearing boys drone through their lessons, 
scolding the laggards, and commending the faithful 
were the chief duties of the instructors. Harvard was 
no exception to the rule. Now Bancroft, and Ticknor 

1 Howe, "Life of George Bancroft," I, 165, n. 


before him, had come into contact at Gottingen with 
men who were masters of their subjects, men full of the 
critical spirit and capable by eloquent lectures of 
inspiring their students into enthusiastic pursuit of 
learning. They came back to Harvard hoping to intro- 
duce methods nearly like those in use at Gottingen. 
A small section of the faculty and some of the younger 
alumni supported them; and they were able to get 
their reforms referred to a committee of the faculty, in 
whose gentle hands the matter died. We need know 
little of college faculties to understand how unlikely 
the Harvard teaching body was to change old methods 
in response to the demands of two young men fresh 
from foreign study. Ticknor had much practical wis- 
dom and accepted the result in a sensible way. He 
eventually saw many of his reforms carried into opera- 

Bancroft was less submissive, and probably less per- 
sistent. The failure of his efforts, added to his per- 
sonal unpopularity, greatly discouraged him. "Our 
hopes of a reform at college," he said. May 10, 1823, 
"have pretty much blown over. I was quite sanguine 
last term that we [should] have affected reforms of a 
most thorough nature. But the pillars of ancient 
usage stand fast, and it will require another shock to 
overturn them." Referring to his own experience he 
said : "I have found College a sickening and wearisome 
place. Not one spring of comfort have I to draw from. 
My state has been nothing but trouble, trouble, trouble, 


and I am heartily glad that the end of the year is 
coming so soon." ^ 

Here we see Bancroft in one of his introspective 
moods. He was sensitive and very emotional. To 
President Kirkland he wrote in the same year : "I pray 
you, forgive my seeming restlessness of character. If I 
thought it necessary or expedient I would correct the 
evil, which after all does not injure others and only 
makes me perhaps less happy than I might be. If I 
were not restless I should not be so desirous of im- 
provement, or honour, or knowledge, as I wish to be. 
And I believe I have gentleness of temper enough and 
a contented disposition. Only there is no water so 
tranquil, that throwing stones into it will not make 
waves." - Words like these suggest that the writer of 
them recovered quickly from his fits of depression and 
carried forward constructive labors. 

Indeed, in performing his individual duties he 
showed great capacity for doing as he chose. In this 
realm he was not subject to faculty consent ; and he 
created the divisions of the Freshman Greek class ac- 
cording to ability, assigning the lessons in accordance 
with the capacity to understand them. The result was 
that his best section read from four to six pages of 
Greek a day and were so eager to go forward that he 
had to hold them back, while the poorest division was 
advancing faster than any previous section in the col- 

1 Bancroft to S. A. Eliot, May 10, 1823. Bancroft MSS. 

2 Bancroft to President Kirkland, [May] 21, 1823, Bancroft MSS. 


lege. A boy who showed that he deserved it was pro- 
moted to a higher division, or reduced to a lower if he 
was falling behind. "I have the satisfaction," said 
Bancroft, "of knowing that I have carried my points 
alone, unassisted by any co-operation whatever from 
any one individual at Cambridge, and supported by no 
man in my design except Mr. Ticknor." ^ 

A year of this kind of struggle was enough for Ban- 
croft. His spirit grew sick of the discipline inflicted 
on it. Even President Kirkland, full of kindness, be- 
lieved that the young man should change his environ- 
ment. The success with the divisions in the Greek 
classes may have suggested the field of secondary edu- 
cation. At any rate, it was into that field that he now 
directed his steps. At Harvard in 1823 was Joseph 
Green Cogswell, a graduate in the year 1806, who had 
traveled much in Europe and was now employed in 
classifying the books in the library. He and Bancroft 
made a partnership to found and conduct a school in 
New England on the model of the German gymnasium. 
Bancroft described their ideas in the following words : 

"I am going to turn schoolmaster. I long to become an inde- 
pendent man, namely a man who lives by his own labours. Mr. 
Cogswell has seen so much of the world, that he knows it and its 
folly : he will join in my scheme : we will together establish a 
school, the end of which is to be the moral and intellectual maturity 
of the mind of each boy we take charge of ; and the means are to 
be first and foremost instruction in the classics. We intend going 
into the coimtry, and we shall choose a pleasant site, where nature 

1 Bancroft to S. A. Eliot. Dec. 3, 1822, Bancroft MSS. 


in her loveliness may breathe calmness and inspire purity. We will 
live retired from the clamours of scandal and the disputes of the 
irresolute. We will delight ourselves with letters, and instead of 
warring against the corporation and contending with scandalous 
reports, we will train up a few minds to virtue and honour, and 
hope that when we die there will be some hands to throw flowers 
over our tombs. . . . We call our establishment a school, and we 
mean to consider ourselves as schoolmasters. We might indeed 
assume a pompous name, speak of instituting a Gymnasium : but 
let the name be modest. I like the sound of the word School- 
master." ' 

Thus was established the Round Hill School at 
Northampton, Massachusetts. It took its name from 
the eminence on which it was situated, a hill looking 
over the town itself and across meadows and river to 
the Mount Holyoke range, as beautiful a view as the 
eye and heart could desire. Here, from 1823 to 1834, 
the school ran its career, drawing a large number of 
pupils from prominent families in many parts of the 
United States. It was a notable experiment and at- 
tracted attention far and wide. Its failure was due to 
bad financial management and to the fact that its plan 
of instruction did not connect logically with that of 
the colleges. In spite of Bancroft's feeling for Harvard 
the new school received the moral and practical support 
of President Kirkland and of a large number of Har- 
vard men around Boston. Later, when money was 
needed to develop its work, a considerable sum was 
lent to it by the college itself, all of which shows that 
Harvard was interested in the project. 

1 Ibid. 


Cogswell was the executive head of the school, while 
Bancroft, teaching the classics, bore the heavier part 
of the instruction. N. M. Hentz, whom Ticknor pro- 
nounced the best French teacher Harvard had been 
blessed with, took the modern languages. The aim of 
the instructors was to develop to the best each boy's 
capacity of learning. Said Cogswell: "I do not form 
any classes but allow every one to get as much of any 
book which he is studying, as he can do, in the time 
assigned for that exercise, telling him that he may re- 
cite as soon as he is ready, but cautioning him at the 
same time, that the least failure sends him back, and 
obliges him to wait till the rest have been brought 
to trial." ^ Flogging was not practiced and there 
was an abundance of vigorous exercise in which 
Cogswell, or another instructor, took the part of 

A candid critic of Bancroft who observed his course 
at Harvard said that he was *'as a tutor only the 
laughing butt of all the college." - It was not because 
he was easy on the students ; for he was most exacting. 
At Round Hill he took the same course. From the 
Rev. George E. Ellis, a Round Hill pupil, we have in 
1891 this portrayal of Bancroft as a teacher : "He was 
absent-minded, dreamy and often in abstracted moods 
as well as very near-sighted. I have seen him come 
into the recitation room at an exercise held before 

1 Anna E. Ticknor, "Life of Joseph Green Cogswell," 137, 143. 

2 See Harvard Graduates Magazine (Sept. 1897), VI, 17, n. 


breakfast, with a slipper or shoe on one foot and a boot 
on the other. More than once he sent me across the 
road to his library for his spectacles. These were gen- 
erally to be found shut into a book, which he had been 
reading before going to bed. The boys, who called 
him familiarly 'the Critter,' were fond of playing 
tricks upon him, which they could do with impunity, 
owing to his shortness of vision." ^ 

Dr. EHis wrote this in 1891, less than two months 
after Bancroft died : twenty-four years earlier he was 
engaged in a bitter controversy with the historian, in 
which the issue came at last to a question of veracity. 
Can it be possible that unconsciously he allowed his 
feelings to become mixed with his recollections ? It is 
true, however, that the Round Hill boys disliked the 
teacher of Greek ; and there is preserved a lead plate 
whittled out by one of their jack-knives and used 
to print a representation of Bancroft in the mar- 
gin of their school paper. It shows him as a straight 
little man, with the air of a Prussian corporal and the 
tail of the devil protruding from the coat-tails.^ But 
we must not take too seriously, either the nicknames 
or the pictures originated by schoolboys. They may 
indeed show that Bancroft was not popular with the 
pupils, that he was eccentric and absent-minded. But 
he was highly esteemed by Cogswell as a teacher, and 
after he ceased to be a partner in the ownership of the 

1 See The Educational Review (April, 1891), I, 341. 

2 Mass. Histl. Soc. " Proceedings," Vol. 47 (1913-14), p. 222. 


school he was employed as a teacher with a salary of 
sixteen hundred dollars a year.^ 

Bancroft retired from Round Hill School in 1831, 
having given nine years to teaching. When he began 
he was a precocious and learned youth, his mind full 
of the classics, his imagination teeming with the hope 
of conquering the intellectual world by storm. The 
years had brought him hard struggles against practical 
things, theory had been softened, and imagination had 
been turned away from an ancient Pegasus to more 
modern things. He was becoming astonishingly prac- 
tical : in fact, he was about to assume the role of a 
practical politician. In George Bancroft, the champion 
of Jacksonian democracy and aspirant for a place in 
the state legislature, it is hard to recognize the absent- 
minded, near-sighted, dreaming "Critter" whom Dr. 
Ellis described. We shall not comprehend the change 
in the man if we do not remember that beneath all his 
scholastic training was a strong will and an unusual 
faculty of promoting his own interests. 

2. Literary Apprenticeship 
It is not unnatural that Bancroft's first publication 
was a book of verse. His temperament was distinctly 
imaginative, and his love of the classics suggested verse- 
making. In Europe he met Goethe and Byron, whom 
he admired as the great men of their day. He came 
back from Europe with a sheaf of manuscript poems, 

1 Anna E. Ticknor, "Life of Joseph Green Cogswell," 165. 


weakly emotional efforts, no better and no worse than 
the effusions of bright college graduates of our own 
day. In 1823 these came out in a thin volume of 
seventy-seven pages with the modest title of " Poems." 
In later life the author destroyed all the volumes he 
could lay hands on. He had the good sense to see that 
he was not born to write poetry. He said that he had 
the love of detail that makes a man a scholar rather 
than the bold sweep of fancy that characterizes the 

That he had great facility in learning and remember- 
ing facts is undoubted, but he had also the faculty of 
lively and ornate expression. His letters, extracts 
from which are given below, sparkle with fancy. They 
have, especially in his early years, more than a normal 
touch of youth's spontaneity. By their side the letters 
of Jared Sparks are as sober as a scientific lecture. 
I have the same feelings in reading Bancroft's early 
letters that I have in reading those of John Richard 
Green. In each case there is a tone of verdant ebulli- 
tion that is nearly irritating. But it seems that this 
superlative degree of emotion was a good gift of nature ; 
for when softened by experience and balanced by a 
vast amount of solid information, it gave light and 
sparkle to what would otherwise have been mere 
didactic writing. 

During his residence in Northampton Bancroft's 
literary efforts were expended in preparing text-books 
and reviews. Undertaking to teach Greek as it was 


taught in Germany, he found it necessary to have 
better text-books than were in use in the American 
schools. It was Hke his resolute and originating mind 
that he prepared such books himself without delay. 
In 1824 he published an abridgment of Buttmann's 
Greek Grammar and a translation of Heeren's "Re- 
flections on the Politics of Greece." The following 
year he translated from the German, Jacobs's "Latin 
Reader," in 1826 Nepos's "De Vita Excellentium Im- 
peratorum" with English notes, and in 1829 a transla- 
tion of Zumpt's " Latin Grammar." These books were 
esteemed the most modern of their kind. They were 
largely used in the schools of Europe and became pop- 
ular in the United States. The returns from them 
were financially important to the translator. 

It will be observed that all these books were in the 
classical field. Here Bancroft at this stage of his 
career felt his greatest interest. Had he continued 
to teach, posterity should have to deal with him, if it 
took any notice at all, as a Greek or Latin scholar. 
He had keen appreciation of exact scholarship and he 
had drunk deeply of the spirit of criticism in a day 
when the world needed the critical attitude more than 
anything else. But he was not to be a teacher. By 
1831 he himself had come to realize his limitations, 
and he was prepared to quit the schoolroom. Perhaps 
the remark of Mrs. Lyman, one of the best observers 
then in Northampton, may throw light on the condi- 
tion that determined his future course. She said : 


"I am very glad you are pleased with Dr. Bancroft. There is 
no member of his family [in the school] who is half so interesting 
as he is, and, notwithstanding his cracked voice and shaking head, 
there are few who in the vigor of youth can write as well," ^ 

In spite of the fact that he had marked peculiarities 
of manner, which limited his teaching, he was an 
interesting man socially and he wrote well. In the 
future it was as a writer and as a man who made 
friends among his fellows that Bancroft distinguished 

The first plain allusion to history in the Bancroft 
letters is encountered in 1828. Writing to President 
Kirkland he described a project for a complete course 
in history. Just a week earlier he had signed the 
preface of a translation of Heeren's "Geschichte der 
Staaten des Altertums," which appeared with the title 
"History of the States of Antiquity." This he con- 
sidered the first volume of the course, and three others 
were to follow. For the period extending from 1492 to 
1821, he proposed to translate Heeren's "Geschichte 
des europaischen Staatensystem." For the Middle 
Ages he would write the volume or abridge an account 
from some valuable books; and, he added, "For my 
own country I should venture to write outHnes." The 
scheme was not carried into execution. No volume 
for the Middle Ages appeared, but late in 1828 came 
in two volumes a translation of Heeren's "Staaten- 
system" with the title "History of the Political System 

^ Mrs. Susan I. Lesley, " Recollections of My Mother," 277. 


of Europe, and its Colonies, from the Discovery of 
America to the Independence of the American Conti- 
nent." This title is misleading, since the book took 
the story of European history down to 1821, more than 
half of the second volume being given up to events later 
than 1783. Since Heeren himself had no such title, it 
is hard to doubt that Bancroft thus early in his career 
warped the fact to make the book attractive to Ameri- 
can readers. The last volume, relating to American 
history, was not written as such ; but it may well be 
that the intention to write it was the beginning of the 
History of the United States. 

Deferring for a time a consideration of this great 
work let us glance at Bancroft's relations with the 
North American Review during his residence in North- 
ampton. On this phase of his life we have much infor- 
mation in his letters to Sparks, and nothing could 
better show us what kind of man he was than to read 
liberally from them. It was in 1823 that Jared Sparks 
became editor of the Review. While he was preparing 
his first issue Bancroft offered to write for him a review 
of Edward Everett's translation of Buttmann's Greek 
grammar and Jacobs's Greek reader. The offer was ac- 
cepted and the author was informed that he might 
make it as learned as he pleased ; and he was invited 
to write other articles in the future. He complied 
gladly, although not all that he wrote was accepted 
by the editor. Sparks wrote February 1, 1824, as 
follows : 


"Some of the old school here have expressed to me their appre- 
hensions since your last article, that the North American is becom- 
ing too partial to the Germans, at the expense of our worthy 
brethren the English. One gentleman made bold to say to me, 
that the English had written as good Greek grammars as anybody, 
and that they ought at least to have a passing compliment. I told 
him I would give you the hint. With tliis view I return you the 
manuscript, hoping that if you can think of anything to say in 
praise of English Grecian elementary books, you will give them the 
passing meed of a paragraph or two." ^ 

A week later Bancroft wrote : "I have been cheating 
myself of my cares by making little translations from 
Goethe. Perhaps I had better correct and improve 
the article on classic learning, or perhaps in lieu of it 
get something ready for the ladies. Then in May you 
could chuse between an argument about Greek and a 
lighter article." ^ An article on German poetry was 
engaged for the October number, 1824. 

Sparks's attitude towards his reviewers again comes 
out in a letter of March 31, 1824. Speaking of a review 
requested on a book by an indifferent Baltimore writer 
he said : 

"You will find a very ambitious, and unformed style occa- 
sionally ; and the general getting up of the book indicates an 
unpractised hand ; but there is much historical knowledge and some 
good thoughts, and I should like to have the author dealt gently 
with, although not extravagantly praised. I think you can let 
some parts of the book speak well for themselves ; you can make a 
sort of analysis of things and throw in such reflections as occur." ^ 

1 Bancroft MSS, Mass. Histl. Soc. 

^ Bancroft to Sparks, Feb. 9, 18^4. Sparks MSS, Harvard Library. 

3 Bancroft MSS. 


These last two Sparks citations, together with the 
difference of opinion arising between the editor and 
Bancroft in regard to the review of John Pickering's 
lexicon, to which reference has already been made,^ 
show what kind of liberties Sparks took with a con- 
tributor. They provoked sharp protest at times, 
though Bancroft's anger was soon appeased. He was 
a man without malice, and was apt to feel great pain 
while he protested for his rights. 

In July, 1824, he sent the editor a carefully prepared 
article on Goethe, asking especially that no changes be 
made in it without consultation before publication. 
Nevertheless, the piece appeared with many changes 
by the editor. Bancroft was genuinely grieved. He 
wrote : 

"In writing for the N. A. R. I conceived myself in the pleasantest 
situation, laboring in a manner to oblige and serve a friend, quite 
as much as myself, and at the same time doing my little part 
towards disseminating a love of letters. To successful exertion of 
one's mind a consciousness of independence is necessary. As a 
friend of yours, I might desire at all times to perform any literary 
labor, which my habits and pursuits might have fitted me for. 
Whenever I express my own feelings and the results of my own 
thoughts, there must be no mind at work but my own. . . . 

" If I mistake not the character of the American public, there is 
no need of keeping back any truth from it. The public is willing 
to be shocked. Ask yourself, if a thing appears good to your own 
mind ; and doubt not, the objections which may arise from the 
fear that this or the other will be offended, will prove groundless. 

I have sometimes thought of relinquishing the career of letters. 
I could be very happy and very useful, if I would do it. I mean 

^ See above, pages 68-71. 


relinquish toiling for others. The perception of excellence in others, 
the love of communing with high minds Providence in its mercy 
has conceded me — a compensation for a thousand woes, and my 
most valuable possession." ^ 

Sparks replied with brusque complacency, disparag- 
ing Bancroft's complaint. The changes, he said, were 
trifling. "Allow no good was done : what was the 
mighty harm ^ It was not a thing to worry about, and 
more especially after a thing was done, that could not 
be undone;" and with that he ventured to suggest an 
article on physical education, enlarging on its oppor- 
tunities and explaining how it might be done. Ban- 
croft was not quite so easily appeased as Sparks 
thought. He replied : 

"The best is, to forget unpleasant things. Only it is also best 
for friends to understand each other. I know not how you can 
call the changes you made in the unfortunate article so trifling. 
For me they certainly were not trifling ; for while I had been expect- 
ing to derive much pleasure from the appearance of it, I have felt 
only chagrin. And I cannot persuade myself, my disappointment 
is not well founded. Do you not know, you changed one assertion 
from a negative to a positive one, thereby saying something, which 
I do not believe, & which makes the words at least unmeaning ? 
. . . You altered, what you would not have altered, had you 
understood, why and in what spirit it was written. And the changes 
in two cases out of three, though few, materially affected both the 
meaning and the style of the most labored parts. I say labored 
parts, and I am free to add, labored with the most success, and the 
most truth and nature. The matter is of little moment, only in so 
far as the whole article is of little moment, and my desire to be 
esteemed as a writer a childish vanity." ^ 

1 Bancroft to Sparks, n. d. [about Nov. 5, 1824]. Sparks MSS. 

2 November 17, 1824, Sparks MSS. 


Bancroft concluded this letter with the assurance 
that he would not again trouble Sparks with articles, 
unless they were requested beforehand. He soon 
thought better of it, or at least thrust aside his resent- 
ment. December 24 he wrote enthusiastically about 
the article on physical education, which he had begun. 
The following characteristic touch may explain the 
breaking away of the clouds: "It is Christmas Eve, 
and a glad occasion. The Roman is now passing from 
street to street, from illuminated church to church ; 
the Basilica of Santa Maria is filled with music almost 
heavenly ; the faithful are rejoicing. I wish you all 
joy suited to the occasion, and happiness always."^ 

Relations thus continued pleasant. When Sparks 
found some things in an article on temperaments that 
he did not like he marked them out and returned the 
article for approval, first showing it to some of Ban- 
croft's Cambridge friends. The author rejected the 
emendations, and Sparks rejected the article, remark- 
ing : "You seem not to have very correct notions of 
this matter of 'judgment,' in regard to the A^. A. 
Review. You say you 'make it a rule to rely on 
your own judgment.' This is an excellent rule, — 
precisely the rule which I adopt for myself, and which 
I must adhere to rigidly if I intend to have any com- 
fort in my labors, or any consistency in my Review. 
Now this is not saying that my judgment is better 
than yours, or any other person's ; but whether good 

1 Dec. 24, 1824. Sparks MSS. 


or bad I must decide by this at least. It is not the 
merits of a piece alone by which I judge, but its adapt- 
ableness to the A^. A. Review.'" He went on to say 
that he rarely printed an article from which something 
was not omitted, but that he never added anything 
without the consent of the author, and that, in fact, 
he had cancelled three sheets in an article by Edward 
Everett in the forthcoming number. He dismissed 
the subject saying: "I beg whenever you send any- 
thing hereafter, that you will make up your mind to 
send it on the same terms that all the other writers 
do, and wish you to understand distinctly, that I shall 
always omit what I do not like, as being the invariable 
rule by which I am guided in all cases." ^ 

This plain statement was toned down by the addi- 
tion of pleasant personal sentiments, and friendly rela- 
tions continued. Bancroft was genuinely attached to 
Sparks, who seems to have warmed to him as much as 
to anyone. The former with a characteristic outburst 
of affection wrote about this time: "You once wrote 
me a long letter, and never but once. I live upon that ; 
but wish you could sometimes add at least a syllable 
of Christian salutation, or friendly information. You 
are all too laconic." ^ During the summer of 1825 
Sparks visited Northampton and was charmed by its 
beauty and agreeable society. Returning he carried 
to Boston a "parcel of flowers," sent to a young lady 
of that city by the schoolmaster at Round Hill. The 

1 Feb. 17, 1825. Bancroft MSS. ■ Jan. 17, 1825. Sparks MSS. 


editor was disposed to carp at his sentimental errand, 
but Bancroft said in regard to the gift : "I came very 
near receiving a reward, which to me would have been 
without price." 

These were years of intense labor for Bancroft. Re- 
buffed as he was by most of those around him, he clung 
the harder to the few Harvard friends he had, Sparks 
and Edward Everett being among them ; and mean- 
while he worked hard and long. He realized deeply a 
poor author's need of some accumulation of capital on 
which to base the execution of further plans. "You 
must not work yourself to death," said his friend, "nor 
be too greedy after the treasures of this world. But 
you are doing great things, and the fruits of your 
labors are to appear not in the present time only, but 
in the future ages." ^ And Bancroft in reply exclaimed : 

'"Be not too greedy after the treasures of this world,' say you 
in yours of the 8th Feb[ruary]. And after what else pray shall a 
man be greedy ? Truth is the object which we profess to seek and 
intelligence the power under whose banners we rally ; but in a 
better world there will be no error to be overcome, no books to be 
read, no doubtful reasonings to follow, no reviews to be written, 
no midnight lamp to be left burnmg, but truth will shine clearly in 
her own simple majesty, and there will be an end of all the appa- 
ratus of the inquirer. Not be greedy after the treasures of this 
world ! I went to a friend's wedding last week. I hope he is a 
happier man than he was. A good wife, with beauty enough to 
satisfy, warm affections enough to cheer, intelligence enough to 
please, cheerfulness enough to enliven the dark hours of this mortal 
state — that is not to be coveted, say you ? Oh you are a saint, 

1 Sparks to Bancroft, Feb. 6, 1826. Bancroft MSS. 


and heavenly minded ; for in heaven there is no marrying nor 
giving in marriage, but men are as the angels. Be not greedy for 
the things of this world. Filthy lucre and the rest : be they 
abhorred and spurned : to be sure a man may be as it were the only 
son of aged parents, and they be poor ; and he may have seen a 
race of elder brothers swept away from his side by the irresistible 
hand of fearful destiny, and may have all the duties of son, brother 
and man pressing upon him : yet let him not think of this world but 
fold his hands in contemplative indolence, and watch the courses 
of the stars or the breaking of day, and muse with unseen spirits, 
never striving to have his name respectfully uttered, where things 
are doing, and satisfying all the ties of nature by a cold obedience 
and barren affection. Fie on your morality ! " ^ 

In this connection I cannot refrain from quoting the 
following sentiment, for it shows Bancroft in his loneli- 
ness and in a mood of stage heroics peculiar to his 
nature, in spite of his many strong qualities. He wrote 
to Sparks : 

"I was once dining at the house of a gentleman of great wealth, 
who had assembled, (I had reason to think in part or particularly 
to show me a little attention) some of the pleasantest and most 
distinguished persons of the opulent families in Boston. Miss M. 
Lyman was there, to speak but of the ladies. Miss Otis, now Mrs. 
Ritchie, and another. The conversation was various. It turned 
on the lives and fortunes of men. I took little part in it : was 
cold and reserved. Presently some one observed of men of letters 
with something of a contemptuous sneer that they were always 
poor and lived in garrets. I might have replied triumphantly, that 
in that they pronounced the severest judgment on rich men, which 
for the honor of human nature I trusted was not a just one. I 
preferred not to do so : I remained nearly silent, and least of all 
appeared to perceive any want of delicacy in those who made the 

1 March 10, 1826. Sparks MSS. 


remark. All the persons present were my friends. One of them 
proved it by giving me his name for $!2000 at a time when my name 
in business was worth little and when his only security was in my 
character. But observe this : there is an essential difference 
between the friendship of men, who are nearly on the level in their 
external fortunes, and the relation which grows up between the 
wealthy and those who have no estates but their own time." ^ 

Words like these make us understand how the 
talented young man, conscious of his literary ability, 
must have formed his purpose to make authorship 
yield wealth as well as distinction. Text-books and 
reviews were produced with great rapidity, while a 
thrifty disposition enabled him to save a considerable 
portion of his income. Every man who has struggled 
through the initial stages of authorship will have sym- 
pathy for Bancroft's position and his feelings in regard 
to this matter. 

Moreover, Bancroft was developing an independence 
in thinking that was sure to bring him into conflict with 
Sparks, a man little inclined to tolerate startling 
things. He was one of those intense men who think 
acutely and see nothing but the ends of their reasoning, 
persons who are always out of step with their fellows, 
and are apt to die unblessed, unless, like Bancroft, 
they have immense determination in bringing them- 
selves into public recognition. Such a man was not 
capable of writing reviews acceptable to Sparks, and 
the following letter shows that Bancroft had begun to 
recognize it : 

1 Nov. 14, 1825. Sparks MSS. 


"My dear friend, 

"When a friend gives me an opportunity of saying yes, it is very 
unpleasant not to do so. You woukl not like my views about 
Judge Story's address. I do not think so higlily of it, as many 
express themselves. The generous enthusiasm for letters is honor- 
able to him ; but there is no point, no consistent and continuous 
train of thoughts. Besides, just at this moment the whole care of 
organizing the school for the new session comes upon me, and I 
see no hope of a day's leisure before thanksgiving. Ready to 
promise and faithful to perform : this was the character you gave 
me of old. You must not consider me as forfeiting it by my declining 
now. Do you not remember too how angry Somerville was with 
you and me.'* And do you know, that while you reproached me 
for praising Popkin so much, Popkin was vexed at being spoken 

of so little .-^ „T i i_ i i I "1 

In great haste, very truly yours. '■ 

To refuse to praise Judge Story was an alarming 
symptom, and Sparks might have known that he was 
deahng with a man whose course could not be predicted 
from the standpoint of prevailing Boston ideals. He 
should have been warned, but blindly persisted, the 
next offer he made being the review of a Greek lexicon 
by John Pickering,^ son of Timothy Pickering, and 
Nestor of all that was left of the prim school of New 
England federalism. Pickering was a judge, and his 
pursuit of Greek was of an amateurish nature. Before 
the young gentleman who worshiped at the shrine 
of the latest German criticism he had the slightest 
chance in the world. Yet the powerful judge was 
thrown to the young lion, not without many soothing 

1 Bancroft to Sparks, October [24], 1826. Sparks MSS. 

2 On this incident see above, pages 68-71 . 


requests that the lion would be gentle for once in his 
life. And he was gentle, after the manner of the gentle- 
ness of lions. He softened his roar, but he could not 
make it the song of a lark. Sparks cut out all that 
was properly criticism, wrote some pages to replace 
the deleted ideas, and published an article that pros- 
trated Bancroft with rage and chagrin. Pickering him- 
self must have been disappointed ; for his chief con- 
nection with the review was that the title of his work 
stood at the head. The only respectable part in it 
was a summary of the development of lexicons, by 
Bancroft, but it appeared so poorly supported by the 
rest of the matter that it was out of place. Bancroft's 
fierce protest could secure no redress, and the incident 
made a painful impression on him for the time being. 
But it soon passed, and although he continued on 
friendly terms with Sparks, he wrote few reviews for 
him in the future. 

It was about this time that Bancroft turned his at- 
tention from classical subjects and gave it to matters 
concerning the life around him. His letters give us 
little explanation for the change. Probably he was 
influenced by Sparks's rise in popular esteem through 
taking up the history of his country. He was bent on 
having a literary career, and here before his eyes was 
the example of a success that he could never promise 
himself as a classicist. The idea was also connected 
with his desire to do good. Referring to an article on 
Baltimore by Sparks he said that he thought it "worth 


a dozen doses of sentimental criticism, and that similar 
articles on various sections of the country would be of 
great and general value." At this time he was think- 
ing of writing an article on the growth of the towns 
and cities of the Connecticut Valley, and proposed to 
make a journey to them gathering materials. 

Bancroft's acquaintance with Sparks was a fortunate 
influence in his life. It gave him a medium of publica- 
tion and the editor's constant call for articles stimulated 
the writing habit. Sparks's efforts to hold back the 
spirit of the young man were not entirely a failure. 
While they hardened the author's sense of independ- 
ence, they caused him to look to his gait and to gallop 
with care. Bancroft had his faults, and they will be 
treated in their place, but in contending with Sparks 
he was generally right. He was developing a spirit of 
self-direction destined to remove him far from the 
group in which he had spent his earliest years ; but 
it was the necessary mark of individuality. As Mrs. 
Lyman well said, "Notwithstanding his cracked voice 
and shaking head, there are few who in the vigor of 
youth can write as well." It was chiefly his faculty of 
writing well that made his history the glory of his 
countrymen in his own age. 

3. A Literary Politician 

In October, 1829, Bancroft wrote: "I should be 
grateful could I obtain that personal leisure, which 
might enable me to enter the career of letters with 


some reasonable expectation of doing myself justice. 
But at present I am doomed to bear with the petulance, 
restrain the frivolity, mend the tempers, and improve 
the minds of children." ^ Those who, like Dr. ElHs, 
censure Bancroft for being a poor teacher, should re- 
member that he himself realized that he was not well 
fitted for the work of the pedagogue, and that he gave 
it up as soon as he could. Good teachers usually make 
poor writers. In the one case success comes from 
the reiterated and detailed statement of fact, in the 
other from clear and lively statement of ideas. Ban- 
croft's mind was suited to the latter process, and it 
would have been a sin against nature to force him to 
give his life to the former. It was his good fortune 
that his thrift and an advantageous marriage enabled 
him to throw himself after 1831 into the field of author- 
ship. But before we follow him into that phase of his 
career, let us see how it was that he became a leading 
democratic politician. 

Our first glimpse of Bancroft's political opinion 
comes as early as 1823, the year after his return from 
abroad. Writing to President Kirkland he said: "I 
love to observe the bustle of the world, but I detest 
mixing in it. I like to watch the shouts of the multi- 
tude, but had rather not scream with them." ^ Such 
words would seem to indicate that at the age of twenty- 
three he was no democrat. A similar impression is 

1 Bancroft to Sparks, Oct. 4. 1829. Sparks MSS. 

2 Bancroft to President Kirkland, May 21, 1823. Bancroft MSS. 


gathered from the following reference in the same year 
to the state of parties in Massachusetts: "Of the 
strange doings at our elections you must have heard. 
A democratic Governor and a democratic Senate, and 
now a prospect of a democratic House. Our class-mate 
Gushing has trimmed and wrote against Mr. Otis. So 
he is now in high favor with 'the Patriot," as the 'im- 
partial writer in the Newburj^port Herald.'"^ That 
Bancroft, destined to be regarded in Massachusetts as a 
renegade equally with Galeb Gushing, should now have 
joined in the storm of reproaches that greeted that act 
of defection has in it something of the irony of fate. 

The fourth of July, 1826, was celebrated generally 
as the fiftieth birthday of the nation, and many orations 
were spoken and published as a result. One of the 
best was made by George Bancroft at Northampton. 
It was a review of the progress of republican institu- 
tions in the world, particular attention being given to 
the proposition that most that had been accomplished 
was the result of our own initiation. The orator sup- 
ported strongly the Jeffersonian theory of popular gov- 
ernment, using words that must have made to wince 
the descendants of Galeb Strong and the relatives of 
Theodore Dwight, numerous in the town. What 
could be more unpleasant to them than words like 
the following : 

1 Bancroft to S. A. Eliot, May 10, 1823. Bancroft MSS. Harrison 
Gray Otis was defeated for governor in IS'aS by the first republican governor 
since the beginning of the war of 1812. Caleb Gushing belonged to the 
Harvard class of 1817. 


"Government is based upon population, not upon property. If 
they who possess the wealth possessed the power also, they would 
legislate in such a way as to preserve that wealth and power ; and 
this would tend to an aristocracy. We hold it best, that the laws 
should favor the diffusion of property and its easy acquisition, not 
the concentration of it in the hands of a few to the impoverishment 
of the many. We give the power to the many, in the hope and to 
the end, that they may use it for their own benefit ; that they may 
always so legislate, as to open the fairest career to industry, and 
promote an equality founded on the safe and equitable influence of 
the laws. We do not fear, we rather invite the operation of the 
common motives, which influence humanitj\" ^ 

There can be little doubt that these words were 
sincere. They represented the creed of a man who 
had as yet formed no other party alignment than that 
to which he was born. He was a supporter of John 
Quincy Adams in 1828. "The election is lost," he 
wrote to Edward Everett in November; "but Adams 
is not more defeated than Calhoun. I hope New Eng- 
land may rise with [the] new party, that will be formed. 
If I can in any wise serve you this winter, don't omit 
to allow me." - From which it seems that he was 
beginning to drag the anchor of his party allegiance. 

Jared Sparks sold the North American Review to Alex- 
ander H. Everett, brother of Edward, in 1830. In 
passing over the property to the new editor he sug- 
gested Bancroft as a reliable and useful contributor. 
Accordingly, Everett asked Bancroft to review the 
report of the Committee on Ways and Means on the 

' Bancroft, "An Oration," etc., p. 20. 
2 Nov. 18, 1828. Bancroft MSS. 


condition of the Bank of the United States. Jack- 
son's message of the preceding December had said 
that it was not too soon to begin to consider the re- 
charter of the bank, and had cast doubts on the wisdom 
of continuing the institution beyond its charter limits, 
1837. Clay and all who supported him, including 
Calhoun's friend McDuffie, of South Carolina, chair- 
man of the Committee of Ways and Means, took the 
opposite side, investigated the condition of the bank, 
and issued the report of April, 1830, completely ex- 
onerating the bank from the imputations of the presi- 
dent. This report became a rallying cry for all who 
opposed the administration ; and if any journal in the 
country could be expected to sympathize with its sen- 
timents, it was the North American Review, whose 
editor was the brother of the distinguished representa- 
tive from the Middlesex district. To Bancroft, intent 
upon writing what he thought, and jealous of his inde- 
pendence, the political leaning of the Review was as 

Up to this time the coming historian had, probably, 
never taken stock of his principles. We have seen that 
in 1826 he was an out and out republican in theory, 
while he held openly with the friends of John Quincy 
Adams. His review of the defense of the bank led him 
to state what he believed about a crucial subject. He 
began by observing that Jackson was not mistaken in 
saying that it was a proper time to take up recharter. 
"This opulent institution," he continued, "enjoys an 


exclusive privilege; it possesses a capital so immense 
as to have an almost controlling influence on the money 
market of the country." But the conduct of the bank 
had been such as to entitle it to the fairest hearing. 
Its immense power had been used mildly. This was 
not to say that the bank gave services that no other 
institution could give. Other banks were as well con- 
ducted and could, if called upon, perform the services 
that the existing bank yielded to the public. "In 
sober truth," said he, "there is very little reason to 
doubt, that the sun would still rise and set, and the 
day be spent in its usual business, and merchandise be 
bought and sold, and bills of exchange be negotiated, 
even without a machine so vast and so very useful as 
the Bank of the United States." As for the report it- 
self, he pronounced it an ex-parte statement, — assuredly 
the truth, — and charged that it contained much exag- 

What Jared Sparks would have done with an article 
so much out of sympathy with what he thought the 
Review should teach, it is hard to say. Everett did 
not omit some parts and change others, as his pre- 
decessor did with the ill-fated review of Pickering's 
lexicon ; but he could not let the article stand for the 
policy of the magazine. He published the article but 
added to it this astonishing statement : " The expe- 
diency of renewing the charter of the present National 
Bank has not been brought into [this] discussion. On 
this question our opinion is decidedly in the aflBrma- 


live; and we propose in a future paper to assign the 
reasons which lead us to that conclusion." In the 
following number there was, indeed, another article on 
the bank, but it was not written by Bancroft. It was 
a strong defense of the institution, and to it was ap- 
pended a footnote stating that it was not from the 
author of the former article, who would probably con- 
tinue his discussion in the October number. The note 
closed with the following assertion: "There is some 
divergence between the views of our two correspon- 
dents on particular points ; but their general objects, 
those of showing the utility of the Bank, and the 
expediency of continuing it, are substantially the 

While Bancroft had not declared himself openly 
against recharter, all his arguments ran against the 
bank. To say, therefore, that he thought it expedi- 
ent to continue the bank was false, and he took it 
as a wrong. Wishing to exonerate himself he wrote 
a second article in which his opinions were clearly 
stated, but the North American would not publish 
it. He was able, however, to force the editor to 
sign a statement that the last sentence in the 
article published was not written by the author of 
that article. 

The announcement that he was opposed to the bank 
was a turning point in Bancroft's career. The leading 
class of New Englanders were fervid supporters of the 
bank. They were long accustomed to view govern- 


ment by the lower classes as a supreme calamity ; and 
they were good haters. That a man born in an upper 
rank, educated, and accustomed to think deeply about 
public matters should become the champion of level- 
ing ideas was nothing less than shocking. They con- 
cluded that Bancroft had acted from selfish motives, 
and they applied to him the term "trimmer," which 
in 1823 he had applied to Caleb Gushing. The Jack- 
son men, however, hailed Bancroft's article with de- 
light. Here was a man of the educated class raising 
his voice in their behalf, and they made him a political 
asset. He was too astute to refuse, and he followed 
the lead they opened to him until at last he reached 
the highest places in the party. There is no reason to 
believe that he planned his article on the bank with a 
view to such a course. 

In 1831, five months after his bank views were pub- 
lished, he was in Washington, where he seems to have 
had an eye to political advantages. "I found by dili- 
gent inquiry at the sources," he wrote to his wife, 
"that my course, as it respects the U. S. Bank, 
was well approved of." Later in the year he visited 
Cleveland on a project to establish a bank there in 
which his father-in-law was interested. When rumor 
said that his article had been connected with this 
project he denied it very positively. A state bank at 
Cleveland would derive benefit from the destruction 
of the bank of the United States. Late in 1831 he was 
in Washington trying to forward the same scheme, 


continuing there well into 1832, "I almost abandon 
the pursuit," he said; "yet $8000 are worth a little 
patience and a sturdy effort." ^ How the affair was to 
yield him so large a sum is not explained, neither is it 
clear that he succeeded in his scheme. He complained 
that the secretary of the treasury was ill and could 
not sign the papers on which the success of the scheme 

Back in Northampton, he settled down to three 
years of literary labor. The excitement raised by the 
bank article passed with the comment of a few of the 
more radical friends of recharter. His personal friends 
accepted the situation, and he had reason to believe 
that he had not lost their esteem. It was, meanwhile, 
an evident satisfaction to see the steady progress of 
Jackson's attack on the bank. 

In the autumn of 1834, Bancroft was suddenly called 
into the front of the political field. Isaac C. Bates, 
a whig, with an eye on the United States senate, an- 
nounced that he would not be a candidate for re-election 
to congress, and a card in the Northampton Gazette 
suggested Bancroft as a candidate to succeed him. 
Immediately a number of gentlemen sent him a letter 
requesting a statement of his opinions on the issues of 
the day. Bancroft's reply was dignified and repub- 
lican in tone. It was not as extreme as the address of 
1826. The editor of the Gazette said it would perhaps 
have the opposition of extreme men in both parties ; 

1 Howe, " Life of Bancroft," I. 197. 


and some of the most liberal whig editors spoke ap- 
provingly of its spirit, while all expressed admiration 
for the style in which it was written.^ 

At that time the whig party was very powerful in 
Massachusetts, and its opponents, Jackson men and 
anti-masons, were organized as a working-men's party. 
It was members of this party who sought to have Ban- 
croft nominated for congress. The nominating con- 
vention met at West Springfield and Bancroft was a 
promising candidate for its favor, but at the last 
moment he withdrew in favor of Oliver Warner, who 
was nominated and defeated at the polls by a whig.- 
Bancroft's friends then brought him out as one of 
Northampton's candidates on the working-men's ticket 
for the lower house of the general court, and in this 
contest he was defeated. His personal views on the 
election are interesting. He wrote thus to Edward 
Everett, whom he wished to see governor : 

"The secret spring of the political movement in this quarter 
grew out of I. C. Bates' aspirations after a seat in the United 
States Senate. A powerful combination was entered into with the 
Springfield junto ; the aid of the clergy was called in ; sermons 
were preached ; and the community was made to believe, that 
there was danger the bible would be taken out of their hands. 
Democracy was said to be a branch of atheism. We held our own 
in this town notwithstanding ; but the Sunday night previous to 
election an immense crowd was gathered in the town hall ; Mr. 
Bates, Lewis Strong, Forbes, a high mason, and Dewey, all 
assembled, and never was such an appeal to the stormy passions. 

1 Northampton Gazette, Sept. 24, and Oct. 8, 22, 1834. 

2 A statement by Andrew Parsons, n. d., in Bancroft MSS. 


The charges against their opponents were Jacksonism, infidelity 
and atheism. A perfect fever was got up. The public did not 
perceive that this was merely a scheme to help Bates forward. I 
saw through it, and on Monday morning infused what courage I 
could into the people. It was a great triumph, that under such 
circumstances we could poll for an independent ticket 167 votes. 
The like was never known here before. Had Bates been quiet, we 
should have carried the town by a decisive majority. The church, 
orthodoxy was made to bear upon us. . . . It will be some years 
before a popular party can become powerful in this state. But it 
will rise, and within six years it will culminate. Webster will run 
for Presidency, and will get at most 24 votes. Van Buren will 
come in ; and Massachusetts will come over to his support. Scorn 
your enemies : spurn them from you. Mr. Webster, retiring to 
private life, will leave you the leading name in the East." ^ 

Before passing adverse judgment on Bancroft's 
course in this situation, let us ask ourselves what we 
should have done face to face with a powerful party 
which could use at will the influence of social and re- 
ligious conservatism to break those who were rash 
enough to oppose it. For the average New Englander, 
born to trust the clergy and to distrust democrats, 
political orthodoxy was no great error. But an edu- 
cated and liberal minded man today would be ashamed 
to yield to such influences. Bancroft was ahead of his 
time, and he took such a stand as many an educated 
man of our own day and in the same situation would 
consider the only thing to do. Alluding to the storm 
that burst over him when his letter to the men of 
Northampton appeared, he said : 

1 Bancroft to Edward Everett, Nov. 17, 1834. Bancroft MSS. 


"With respect to my letter, it was written deliberately. I 
abide by it. I have no wish to retract a word of it, nor to change 
the time when it was published. I had no idea, how indifferent 
I could be to unmerited censure; it does not in the least disturb 
my peace : I ijever enjoyed greater tranquility. Mj' letter was an 
attack upon all disorganizers and infidels. I am radically a repub- 
lican in feeling and in principles." ^ 

Perhaps George Ticknor's advice brought comfort 
also. Said he : "You are not made by your talents or 
your affectations, by your temperament or your pur- 
suits, to be either the leader or the tool of demagogues. "^ 
Ticknor was an ardent whig : he looked on the defec- 
tion of his old friend with great sadness. At this time 
the first volume of the " History " had been published 
and well received. Its author had become a national 
figure, and his political course caused much comment. 

The attacks of whigs attracted the notice of the 
democrats. Invitations to address the faithful came in, 
and prominent democrats began to take notice of him. 
Van Buren wrote, the occasion being a reply to Ban- 
croft's offer of a copy of his first volume : "I have, as 
you suppose, observed the attacks which have been 
made upon you by the newspapers. This has ever 
been and will ever be the fate of every sincere friend 
of liberal principles." Bancroft visited Albany, where 
he met many men of note, among them William L. 
Marcy, with whom he exchanged letters after his re- 
turn. He was a Van Buren man in 1836, and in 1837 

1 Bancroft to Edward Everett, Dec. 29, 1834. Bancroft MSS. 

2 In the Bancroft MSS without date. 


he received as the reward of his faithfulness the col- 
lectorship of the port of Boston, a position which he 
filled very acceptably until dismissed on the acces- 
sion of the whigs in 1841. By this time he was fully 
launched as a statesman. In 1834, he said: "I must 
insist on my old theory : the man of letters cannot have 
brilliant success in politics except on the popular side." ^ 
These words were spoken to induce Everett to come 
over to democracy ; but they probably stated his own 
theory of conduct. Let us now consider Bancroft's 
progress into the sure position of an accepted man of 

4. Early Career as a Historian 

Six months after he gave up the schoolroom Ban- 
croft said: "It was an unwise thing in me to have 
made myself a schoolmaster : that was a kind of oc- 
cupation to which I was not peculiarly adapted, and 
in which many of inferior abilities and attainments 
could have succeeded as well. I have felt rejoiced at 
being entirely emancipated from this condition." ^ He 
had at last found himself. 

It will be noticed that he threw his classics out of 
the same window that served for the exit of his school- 
master's wand. Both were supplanted by history. 
"I remember well," he wrote to Everett in 1835, allud- 
ing to their early relations, "advising with you on 

1 Bancroft to E. Everett, July 11, 1834. Bancroft MSS. 

2 Howe, "Life and Letters of George Bancroft," I, 201. 


devoting myself to the pursuit of history, and for six- 
teen years my main purpose in life has been un- 
changed." We should ever make some allowance for 
Bancroft's imagination. He may have thought in 1818 
of becoming a historian, and the idea was probably 
remembered ; but the magazine articles written on 
many subjects from 1823 to 1830 show that he was 
still without a dominating theme of thought. History 
begins to assume a leading position in his plans in 
1828, when, as we have seen, he was thinking of pub- 
lishing, in connection with Heeren's two works, a 
course of general history,^ a history of the United 
States making the fourth volume in the series. Even 
this plan seems to have been dropped during at least 
four years. There is nothing to connect it with the 
appearance in 1834 of the first volume of his great 
work, except identity of subject. 

Bancroft is said to have derived his historical method 
from Heeren, under whom he studied at Gottingen. 
The assertion seems to me very improbable. If his 
teacher at Gottingen had made him love history, he 
would hardly have come home filled with enthusiasm 
for another subject. As to historical method, Heeren's 
characteristics were balanced judgment, impartiality, 
and great insight; and he gave much prominence to 
the economic factors of history. Probably no critic 
will claim that Bancroft had these qualities in a high 
degree. He was chiefly a historian of political life. 

^ See above, page 153. 


Moreover, Heeren's style was exceedingly dry, while 
Bancroft's was exceedingly vivid. A chapter of the 
German's book is a series of minute statements of fact, 
concise and brief : one of Bancroft's chapters is a scene 
from a drama, in which unity of action, enthusiasm 
for the subject, and descriptive power are joined in 
a brilliant manner. But for the fact that the young 
writer studied under the old writer, it is doubtful if 
anyone would have thought of saying that Bancroft 
was influenced by Heeren. It is probable that Ban- 
croft fashioned himself according to the gift he had 
from nature. Certainly his appreciation for the 
beauties of classical literature, ancient and modern, 
had some appreciable influence on his literary style. 

The first volume of the "History of the United 
States from the Discovery of the American Continent" 
was published in 1834. It was probably written in 
1832 and 1833. The preface, dated June 16, 1834, 
contains this statement : 

"I have formed the design of writing a 'History of the United 
States from the Discovery of the American Continent ' to the present 
time. As the moment arrives for pubUshing a portion of the work, 
I am impressed more strongly than ever with a sense of the grandeur 
and vastness of the subject ; and am ready to charge myself with 
presumption for venturing on so bold an enterprise. I can find 
for myself no excuse but in the sincerity with which I have sought 
to collect truth from trustworthy documents and testimony. I 
have desired to give to the work the interest of authenticity. I 
have applied, as I have proceeded, the principles of historical 
skepticism, and, not allowing myself to grow weary in comparing 
witnesses, or consulting codes of laws, I have endeavored to impart 


originality to my narrative, by deriving it from writings and 
sources which were the contemporaries of the events that are 
described. Where diflPerent nations or different parties have been 
engaged in the same scenes, I have not failed to examine their 
respective reports. Such an investigation on any country would 
be laborious ; I need not say how much the labor is increased by 
the extent of our republic, the differences, in the origin and early 
government of its component parts, and the multiplicity of topics, 
which require to be discussed and arranged." 

Much error, he continued, had crept into American 
history, as it had been written, through the habit of 
one historian accepting bhndly what had been said by 
a predecessor. He had tried to remedy this defect by 
consulting sources only. There is no reason to doubt 
that he examined most carefully all the available 
source material within his reach in America. 

Following the preface was an "Introduction." It 
opened with the statement, " The United States consti- 
tute an essential portion of a great political system, 
embracing all the civilized nations of the earth. At a 
period when the force of moral opinion is rapidly in- 
creasing, they have the precedence in the practice and 
the defence of the equal rights of man." Then follows 
a long and glowing panegyric on the American govern- 
ment. The idea that the history of all civilized nations 
is a unity was a favorite theory of contemporary 
scholars and served its purpose in breaking down the 
habit of treating national history as isolated from world 
history. Heeren held the view, and Bancroft probably 
caught the phrase from him. But the American seems 


to have used it only to vouch for his scholarship of the 
German brand. Having announced that the United 
States were a part of a great world system, he went on 
to show that they were far ahead of all the other 
nations of the world ; and in taking up the story of 
their past he treated it much as faithful Thomas 
Hutchinson or Jeremy Belknap would have treated it. 
A sensible historian needs no theorization of univer- 
sality to know that he should not neglect the European 
background of American history. On the other hand, 
American history is essentially American. 

Bancroft's first volume carried the story to the 
restoration of the Stuarts, 1660. It was no sooner 
published than the second was begun and brought 
steadily forward to its publication in 1837. Writing 
was now his only employment, and we may here see 
about how fast Bancroft worked. The third volume 
came out in 1840 and no more appeared until 1852, 
when the fourth and fifth were issued. The sixth came 
out in 1854, the seventh in 1858, the eighth in 1860, 
the ninth in 1866, and the tenth in 1875. The title 
of the first volume announced that the work would 
bring the story down to the "present time": subse- 
quent volumes were content with the title, "History 
of the United States from the Discovery of the Ameri- 
can Continent." The author had come to realize how 
large was his task, and the tenth volume completed 
the story of the revolution. 

Bancroft's early volumes were marred by his enthu- 


siasm for democratic institutions, leading him to fervid 
outbreaks in praise of liberty. As Professor Jameson 
says, they voted for Jackson.^ In his mature years 
Bancroft himself became aware of this defect and re- 
wrote his early volumes with many chastening touches. 
Nevertheless, the first volume made a great impression 
when it appeared. Edward Everett read it through 
in less than twenty-four hours and seized his pen and 
wrote: "You have written a work which will last 
while the memory of America lasts ; and which will 
instantly take its place among the classics of our lan- 
guage. It is full of learning, information, common 
sense, and philosophy; full of taste and eloquence; 
full of life and power. You give us not wretched 
pasteboard men; not a sort of chronological table, 
with the dates written out at length, after the manner 
of most historians : — but you give us real, individual, 
living men and women, with their passions, interests, 
and peculiarities." ^ Judge Story, after reading some 
of the proof-sheets, wrote : "I think your work will be 
very interesting and useful. You have infused into 
it a very spirited, chaste, and vigorous narrative." ^ 
Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "The history is richer 
not only in anecdotes of great men, but of the great 
heart of towns and provinces than I dared believe; 
and — what surprised and charmed me — it starts 

1 Jameson, " Historical Writing in America," 107. 

2 Everett to Bancroft, Oct. 5, 1834. Bancroft MSS. 

3 Story to Bancroft, May 15, 1834. Bancroft MSS. 


tears, and almost makes them overflow on many and 
many a page. ... It is noble matter, and I am 
heartily glad to have it nobly treated." Theodore 
Parker wrote: "You are likely to make, what I long 
since told you I looked for from you, the most noble 
and splendid piece of historical composition, not only 
in English, but in any tongue." ^ 

These comments were made by men who stood in the 
first rank in their day, and they are not lightly to be 
set aside. They tell us plainly that Bancroft as an 
historian had fulfilled the requirement of his time. 
The statements are supported by the large sales the 
book had. The first volume, published in 1834, had 
reached its twenty-sixth edition in 1878. To both 
kinds of testimony add the fact that the History gave 
Bancroft the undisputed rank of greatest living histo- 
rian of his country. It made him famous among 
writers, politicians, and statesmen. No other history 
written in our country has had the distinction of start- 
ing tears in the eyes of an Emerson, opening the doors of 
high cabinet and diplomatic appointment, and filling its 
author's pockets with the glittering coin of the republic. 

And yet posterity has its doubts. Bancroft's His- 
tory is now out of date, and a changing age treats it 
with disdain. It has fallen into the hands of a genera- 
tion that demands less color and more repose. His 
quick and nervous summation of facts is not suited to 
the careful weighing of evidence. 

^ See Howe, "Life and Letters of George Bancroft," II, 107. 


The weightiest charge against Bancroft is the lack 
of detachment. American he was in spite of the strong 
impression German criticism had made on him. He 
assumed that the United States were founded on a 
plan superior to that of other nations, and that their 
growth verified his theory. The dispute of the colo- 
nies with England, to which a large portion of his book 
is devoted, had for him only one side. In Bancroft's 
time no historian in either the United States or Great 
Britain had treated the revolution with discrimi- 
nation. To all it was a thing to be defended or con- 
demned, as the feelings of the writer dictated. Ban- 
croft was no worse than the others. Strongly partisan 
by nature and deeply imbued with the love of American 
independence, he glorified the struggle of the revolu- 
tionary fathers, and saw no good in the position taken 
by king and parliament. He crystallized all the hero 
worship of the old Fourth-of-July school into a large 
work written in a style acceptable to the time. 

George Bancroft spent eight years of his life in 
Boston, four of them as collector of the port, and four 
as a private citizen. During these years he was a 
leading democrat of Massachusetts. He made speeches 
in the interest of the party and carried on an active 
correspondence with Van Buren and other party 
leaders. It must be remembered, also, that the key- 
note of the democratic campaigning was the attack on 
the aristocracy. Bancroft's speeches on this phase of 
the general discussions differ from those of other demo- 


cratic speakers only in style. This fact will enable 
the reader to imagine the feelings Boston entertained 
for him. Of all his old friends Prescott alone, whose 
gentle soul found the good in every man, remained 
cordial. To a high-born Boston lady Bancroft once 
said: "I did not find you at home when I called." 
"No, and you never will," was the reply. 

To this kind of opposition Bancroft turned a face 
hardened by abuse. In the letters he wrote to Van 
Buren, he gloried in his martyrdom. If he felt the 
sensitiveness of the scholar, it does not show in his 
correspondence, not even in his letters to his wife. A 
part of the period referred to he was chairman of the 
state democratic committee ; he tried to distribute the 
patronage ; he denounced the opponents of Van Buren 
and was called on by that statesman to write replies 
to some of the many questions that were asked him 
by friend and foe; he was nominated for the state 
senate; and in 1844 he was a delegate at large to the 
democratic national convention. 

But his crowning party effort at this time was to 
write a campaign life of Van Buren. The task was 
first assigned to William L. Marcy, who refused, saying : 
"I abominate man worship, and to escape from the 
slightest suspicion of it, should be likely to come short 
of what might be said with truth and propriety." ^ 
Van Buren, who was promoting the scheme, then ap- 

1 Marcy to Van Buren, Feb. 1844. " Proceedings " of the Mass. Histl. 
Soc, 1909, p. 419. 


proached Bancroft, who accepted readily. He worked 
hard on the task, and had it nearly complete when 
Van Buren's nomination was rendered impossible by 
combinations of factions in the convention of 1844. 
How completely Bancroft played the role of party 
servant is seen in his words written when sending to 
Van Buren a portion of the finished manuscript. "I 
look to you," he said, "that not one word escapes that 
is not strictly true, and further, that is not free from 
the censure of being unwise. Erase, add, explain, 
comment, give me hints. I have no pride of author- 
ship. I am a calm, tranquil friend of the cause." ^ 
It is hard to have patience with a spirit so little in 
harmony with the attitude of a true historian. More- 
over, it is in striking contrast with Bancroft's own 
position when Sparks took the liberty of making him 
say what he had not intended to say. For "the 
cause" the author, it is evident, dofifed his garb of 
historian and took the habit of party hack. The life 
of Van Buren was not published in 1844, as intended. 
When it finally appeared in 1889 it had the title, 
"Martin Van Buren to the end of his Public Career." 
It proved a colorless affair, a thing Bancroft should 
not have published at all. 

In his "History" Bancroft accused James Grahame, 
author of a history of the United States, of inventing 
a statement reflecting on John Clarke, of Rhode 

1 Bancroft to Van Buren, April 22, 1844. " Proceedings " of the Mass. 
Histl. Soc, 1909, p. 425. 


Island. As a champion of democracy Bancroft was 
disposed to take the side of the men of Rhode Island 
against the criticisms that the rulers of Massachusetts 
made against them. His accusation against Grahame 
brought on a controversy, in which Josiah Quincy, 
American editor of the author named, took a promi- 
nent part. Bancroft was deluged with scorn, and 
wrote a cutting reply which, however, he was per- 
suaded to leave unpublished after it had been put into 

Another notable controversy was with Colonel 
George W. Greene, grandson and biographer of General 
Nathanael Greene. Bancroft, in his ninth volume, 
threw on Greene the responsibility for the loss of Fort 
Washington, and otherwise criticized Greene's conduct 
in the early part of the revolutionary war. The 
grandson replied in a sharp pamphlet, to which Ban- 
croft retorted in an article in the North American Review, 
followed by a second reply from Colonel Greene, pub- 
lished in the same journal. The points at issue were 
very subordinate, and it seems that if Bancroft's 
language was not exactly well chosen for the subject 
to which it referred, it was at least not as condemna- 
tory of Greene as the critic thought. It is certain 
that the Colonel wrote in a bad spirit, which could not 
have been wholly due to his sensitiveness in defending 
the fame of an ancestor. 

Bancroft was unquestionably a great scholar, and 

1 Howe, "Life of Bancroft," I, 138-140. 


there is no reason to doubt his industry. Xor can it 
be said that he had any other prejudice than his intense 
partiaHty for the American side of the revolutionary 
controversy. If he made mistakes in his estimates of 
the conduct of men, they were doubtless honest mis- 
takes. Men who write with the hastening fingers of 
imagination sometimes drop into obscurity details which 
more literally minded persons would consider very im- 
portant ; or they use expressions meaning less or more 
than they intend them to mean. Probably Bancroft, who 
was always a stylist, was guilty to some extent of this 
form of error; and on this basis most of the criti- 
cisms made upon his "History" could be explained. 
Such an explanation lessens our censure, though it 
does not remove it entirely. 

5. Bancroft as a Statesman 

In the year 1844 Bancroft was the candidate for 
governor of Massachusetts on the democratic ticket. 
He could not have expected success ; for the state was 
strongly whig, and Clay was running for the presi- 
dency. He was in the same year a delegate-at-large 
to the national nominating convention of his party, 
going there as a strong Van Buren man. When he 
realized that his favorite could not succeed, he gave 
his attention to defeating Cass, in whose support many 
of Van Buren's opponents were united. He was influ- 
ential in carrying a portion of his own delegation over 
to Polk at the critical time, sweeping along many other 


New England delegates as they went. He believed 
that he thus turned the tide in favor of the "dark 
horse," and five weeks after the convention adjourned 
he sent Polk an explicit account of his actions. On 
this side of his career Bancroft did not differ from the 
average American politician. 

In recognition of his position in the party, Polk made 
him secretary of the navy. He himself would have 
preferred a diplomatic post, but he was pleased with 
the cabinet position. While he waited in Washington 
to know what would be offered he wrote to his wife as 
follows: "The President elect keeps his own counsels 
most closely ; but some of those in the street seem to 
think, that the husband of a woman like yourself, 
should assuredly be one of the Clerks of the President ; 
and as people do not know the cause of my coming 
here, they draw queer inferences. Time will unfold all 
things, among the rest whether you are to mope in 
Winthrop-place ; or reign in Washington ; or freeze 
your nose in some German Lapland." ^ His fate was 
a brief reign in Washington, and after that the court 
of St. James. It was a sudden change that a man 
who had been forced to endure many slights in his 
own town was set in the highest circle of the country. 
But violent as the transition was, Bancroft made it 
with success. The little man whose exuberant man- 
ners brought the severe rebuke from Professor Norton 
in 1822 was in 1845 recognized as a remarkable success 

^ Howe, "Life and Letters of George Bancroft," I, 259. 


in all things social. His house in Washington became 
noted for its good company, and its master and mis- 
tress were among the most desirable guests in the best 
houses of the city. The esteem in which he was held 
is shown in the remark ascribed to President Arthur, 
that the President of the United States was "per- 
mitted to accept the invitations of members of his 
cabinet, supreme court judges, and — Mr. George 
Bancroft." Ample means enabled Bancroft to enter- 
tain in a handsome manner, but good taste and a 
careful appreciation of select company united in mak- 
ing his entertainments successful. 

As secretary of the navy, Bancroft is chiefly remem- 
bered for the establishment of the Naval Academy at 
Annapolis, in keeping with an idea that many per- 
sons had previously entertained. He gave himself to 
the routine of his oflBce with great earnestness. He 
followed the advice of his friend Van Buren as faith- 
fully as he could : "Stand aloof from all schemes and 
intrigues of which you will soon see abundance. Let 
your course be distinguished by a singleness of devo- 
tion to the duties of your Department, and the time 
will come when you will find an advantage from this 
course beyond what is the ordinary reward of virtuous 
actions." Van Buren's words are illustrative of the 
political ideal of the time. Try hard to avoid the job- 
makers and stick to your desk, summed it up. Noth- 
ing was said about the duty of a secretary of the navy 
to know anything about the navy. Bancroft was no 


better and no worse than most of the men who have 
been appointed to the position. 

As secretary he had many difficulties. He soon 
brought down upon himself the opposition of a large 
part of the service through ignoring the rule of promo- 
tion by seniority. He adopted the more reasonable 
method of promotion for ability ; but it is doubtful if 
he knew men well enough to execute this method fairly. 
At any rate, his decisions were roundly criticized, 
and at last the senate seemed to give color to the 
charge by refusing to confirm some of his nomina- 
tions. It was the signal for shifting him to the diplo- 
matic service. McLane, minister to London, wished 
to come home and Bancroft took his place, arriving in 
England, October 25, 1846. 

Of his three years in this position this sketch can 
take little notice; for it was not a time in which his 
historical activity, except in the collection of materials, 
was notable. "Here in London," he wrote to Pres- 
cott, "to write is impossible ; except dispatches and 
notes of which I have indited, on little nothings and a 
few matters of importance, as much as would make in 
bulk the Conquest of Mexico." ^ Social life was very 
exacting, and he and his wife gave themselves up to it. 
It was a sphere in which they both had much ability, 
and they were popular in the capital. Bancroft, it is 
likely, found great pleasure in the acquaintances he 
formed among literary men, especially among the his- 

1 Howe, "Life and Letters of Bancroft," II, 43. 


torians. Hallam, Milman, Lord Mahon, and Macaulay 
he came to know well. His own estimate of the his- 
torians is seen in his high praise of the last named, 
whom he pronomiced the greatest of the group, and of 
whom he said : 

"He has the most nearly universal knowledge of any man I ever 
met ; and his memory is as much disciplined to accuracy, as the 
extent of his reading is boundless. I have met him in all sorts of 
companies, and everywhere he is the oracle of all present. Among 
churchmen he shows more knowledge of ecclesiastics than all the 
bishops ; he will go ahead of Milman and keep in advance in 
quoting the fathers of the church and even the later Latin authors ; 
and when Hallam falters about a letter of Pliny, he will give its 
date and tenour, and perhaps begin to quote it word for word. I 
think him, what is so rare, greater than his books." ^ 

In 1847 Bancroft made short visits to Paris to col- 
lect material bearing on the American revolution. He 
was well received by leading literary men, among them 
Guizot, Thierry, Lamartine, Cousin, Mignet, Thiers, 
Louis Blanc, and de Tocqueville. Seven times at 
least, says his biographer, he visited Paris on this 
business between March, 1847, and September, 1849. 
Add to the time necessary for these visits the time he 
gave to the collections in London, and we see how little 
of the three years he was minister was really given to 
the duties of the legation. His avowed purpose in 
accepting the position was to have the opportunity 
to collect materials on the revolution ; and he was 
prepared to retire as soon as that object was secured. 

' Howe, "Life and Letters of Bancroft," II, 16. 


The triumph of the whigs in 1848 gave him fair notice 
that his tenure was short. He said it made Httle 
difference, since he had from the first intended to re- 
sign as soon as he completed his researches, and had 
Cass been elected he would have returned early in the 
new administration. As it was, he remained until 
September 1, held there by his feverish desire to finish 
the work in the French archives, and by the fortunate 
accident that Abbott Lawrence, his successor, was not 
ready to go to London until the autumn. 

Back in America, Bancroft settled in New York, 
buying at the same time a pleasant home in Newport 
in which he spent his summers. His city house in 
Twenty-first Street was the scene of much hospitality. 
Here were installed the transcripts of documents he had 
examined abroad, handsomely bound with gilt tops. 
Here, too, were completed the fourth, fifth, sixth, 
seventh, and eighth volumes of the "History." When 
the fourth appeared, in 1852, twelve years had elapsed 
since its immediate predecessor had been issued. They 
were twelve years mostly lost to literature. For the 
eighteen years he lived in New York, 1849 to 1867, he 
had a better record; but even here there must have 
been much waste of time. The eighth volume ap- 
peared in 1860, making five volumes in twelve years, 
which was no great thing considering that the volumes 
contained on an average one hundred and forty-one 
thousand words. The ninth and tenth volumes ap- 
peared together in 1874, after fourteen years of silence. 


It is hard to find a great German or French historian 
of the period who worked so fitfully. 

During most of this period Bancroft found himself 
out of sympathy with the democratic party. A close 
follower of the displaced Van Buren and little known 
in New York, he found himself of slight account among 
the politicians. He was, also, opposed to the pro- 
slavery influence then dominating his party, and could 
accept neither the position of Pierce on Kansas nor 
the doctrines of Taney in the Dred Scott case. The 
result was that he was entirely out of politics as long 
as the democrats ruled the country, a remarkable situ- 
ation for a man who had been so much engaged in this 
field in 1844. "I am persuaded," he said in 1857, 
*'the South has gained nothing by some extreme no- 
tions that have been put forth ; and I see and know, 
that we of the Northern democracy, have been dread- 
fully routed in consequence, and are handed over to the 
most corrupt set of political opponents, that I have 
ever encountered." ^ 

During the war Bancroft's feelings were entirely 
with the administration. He met Lincoln and formed 
a poor opinion of his ability. He regarded Seward as 
a disagreeable man. But he kept on friendly terms 
with both. In 1862 a faction of the republicans in 
New York wished to nominate him for congress, but 
he declined on the ground that his candidacy would 
endanger the republican cause in the district. ^ Never- 

1 Howe, " Life and Letters of Bancroft," II, 128. ■ Ibid., II, 157. 


theless, he called himself a democrat, and as the war 
drew to an end he began to pick up again the old 
threads of his party association. 

Opportunity came to put them into play when An- 
drew Johnson, president through the crime of Booth, 
took up the plan of establishing a moderate party out 
of all the liberal elements then in politics. Northern 
democrats who were not tinctured with copperhead- 
ism, republicans who had supported Lincoln's liberal 
views, and old whigs were to be united in a great 
liberal movement; and to this project Bancroft gave 
his allegiance and his aid, helping in an effective, if 
secret, manner. Johnson was self-educated and dis- 
trusted his ability to prepare a state paper. When 
his first message was laid before congress, December 4, 
1865, it aroused happy surprise. Newspapers and 
individuals were delighted at this evidence, as they 
put it, that a plain man from the Southern mountains 
could write so excellent a paper. For forty years the 
country continued under this impression; but at last 
Professor Dunning proved that this excellent paper 
was written by George Bancroft and not by Andrew 
Johnson.^ This act marked Bancroft's return to politi- 
cal life. It was followed by his appointment in 1867 
to the position of minister in Berlin, a post he held 
until 1874. 

It has been a subject of comment that Bancroft, 
appointed by Johnson, could have held oflfice so long 

1 See "Proceedings" of the Mass. Histl. Soc., 1905, p. 395. 


under Grant. He himself said that he was a Grant 
man when appointed in 1867, and that he received a 
letter from Grant strongly approving the nomination. 
It is doubtful, however, if Johnson knew of this rela- 
tion, and it cannot be doubted that if the senate had 
known that Bancroft wrote the message of 1867 his 
confirmation would have had strong opposition. Our 
historian was a crafty man in the affairs of this world. 
He was too wise to trust his fate in the new adminis- 
tration to the chain of friendship merely, and he did 
some skillful polishing of the links on his own part. 
Probably it was not by accident that on the morning 
of the fateful fourth of March, 1869, the "leading 
liberal newspaper in Berlin" contained flattering allu- 
sion to General Grant. On that day Bancroft gave 
a party for Bismarck and several of the higher officers 
of state, and at the proper moment the chancellor 
toasted in glowing words the new President of the 
United States. Bancroft replied with a toast to the 
King of Prussia. Next day he wrote Grant a letter of 
congratulations, but he was too shrewd to tell him about 
the marks of approval in Berlin : that was a thing for 
the dispatch to the secretary of state written March 5, 
1869. To the letter to Grant he added this postscript : 

"Count Bismarck, who had not dined out during the winter with 
one of the diplomatic corps, gladly accepted my invitation for 
yesterday out of his desire to prove you his regard. I assure you 
we had a very pleasant time ; I never saw Bismarck so much at his 
ease, so full of mirth and frolic." ^ 

iSee "Proceedings" of the Mass. Histl. Soc, 1905, VI, 223-226. 


No American minister has been more popular in the 
capital to which he was accredited than Bancroft in 
Berlin. He became an intimate friend of Bismarck in 
the beginning of his residence, and from that vantage 
point it was easy to enter any door. The king showed 
him marked favor ; princes, dukes, the queen and her 
highest ladies vied with scholars and writers to show 
him their esteem. He lived in a handsome house on 
the Thiergarten, where his entertainments were well 
known for elegance. He was very fond of horseback 
riding, a practice he continued until old age, and on his 
daily jaunt frequently had the chancellor for his 

Bancroft was in Berlin during the Franco-Prussian 
war. His sympathies were strongly on the German 
side, and he showed them so plainly that the French 
came to understand his bias. He now became the 
object of contempt in Paris, a city in which he had 
formerly received many courtesies. Victor Hugo, with 
that withering scorn for which he was noted when 
dealing with the catastrophes for which Louis Napo- 
leon was responsible, held up Bancroft to the world in 
two bitter poems. In one Bancroft is told that he 
insults France; and the poet exclaims : "She does not 
perceive in her widow's weeds or her fetes the kind of 
obscure and vague shadow which you are. Try to be 
some one, Tiberius, Ghengis Khan, the human flea, or 
the human volcano, and we will examine you to see if 
you are worth the trouble of our contempt. Have a 


title to our hatred and we will see about it. If not, 
go away!" ^ I have not been able to discover what 
it was that aroused the poet's ire; but Bancroft 
was a man of strong impulses, and it is possible that 
his enthusiasm for the German cause was not restrained 
within the bounds of neutrality. 

Berlin brought out the inherent love of social dis- 
tinction that Bancroft ever had. He was just the 
material to make a good Junker, and his association 
with the oflScial class of the city furnished the training 
and the opportunity to develop his nature. Leopold 
von Ranke said to him one day : "Do you know what 
I say of you to my classes? ... I tell my hearers 
that your history is the best book ever written from 
the democratic point of view. You are thoroughly 
consistent, adhere strictly to your method, carry it 
out in many directions, but in all with fidelity, and are 
always true to it." ^ On this, Bancroft's comment, 
expressed in a letter to a relative, was: "If there is 
democracy in the history it is not subjective, but ob- 
jective, as they say here." Thirty years earlier he 
gloried in his love of democracy, and to one who found 
it in his "History" he would have replied that it was 
his intention to make the book a tribute to democracy. 
An anecdote told in Washington about the time of his 
death illustrates how much he took on the German 
color in his later life. It was his habit to ride past 

1 See " Proceedings " of the Mass. Histl. Soc, 1905, II. 252. 

2 Howe, "Life of George Bancroft," II, 183. 


the Soldiers' Home when taking his daily exercise. 
A gentleman who met him several times without know- 
ing him, ventured to ask of the guard at the gate of 
the Home who was that old gentleman with a military 
look who rode by so often. The guard replied : "That 
is an old German named Bancroft." 

That Bancroft could so readily take on the ideals of 
his environment was characteristic of his quickly im- 
aginative mind. He was all fire, and ever ready to run 
away with any glowing prospect that opened before 
him. He probably thought less about principles than 
about accomplishing the things that he considered 
desirable. Just returned from Germany, face to face 
with New England democracy, /he could exclaim to 
President Kirkland in 1823: "I love to observe the 
bustle of the world, but I detest mixing in it. I like 
to watch the shouts of the multitude, but had rather 
not scream with them." In Northampton, in face of 
the frowning aristocracy of the "River Gods," and re- 
membering the dogged opposition his reforms had met 
in conservative Harvard, he could turn with enthu- 
siasm to Jeffersonian democracy ; for the Jeffersonian 
democrats heard him gladly and gave tribute to his 
greatness. And as long as he ran forward in the race 
of political preferment, he loved and defended the 
principles on which his party was founded. In com- 
fortable retirement in New York, with the tasks of his 
library before him and the joys of Newport at his 
command, there was no impulse to go back into the 


rough and tumble contest of politics. In Berlin at last, 
with savants and courtiers in admiring circles around 
him, he adopted the ideals they held. From step to 
step he proceeded, it seems, with sincerity. That is 
to say, he believed for the time being that he followed 
sincere conviction. If posterity should judge him as a 
model of individual conduct it would have to say that 
he was inconsistent and shifting. But it is as a histo- 
rian that we must pass on him ; and may we not say 
that, in spite of his lack of continuous ideals in his per- 
sonal hfe, he was in his literary life ever a consistent 
American ? American democracy he always defended, 
even when he appeared in the garb of a Teuton. 

6. Minor Activities 

Bancroft's career has been treated in its early stages : 
the first attempts in literature, his political activities, 
his greatest literary achievement — the "History of 
the United States, " — and his triumphant service as 
minister to London and to Berlin. It still remains to 
consider some minor phases, in which his actions had 
enough importance to make them essential to a sketch 
of his life. 

First of all we must consider his shorter writings. 
Fairly abundant before he published the first volume 
of his "History," — as his textbooks and articles in the 
reviews, — writings of this class were rarely produced 
after he began his great task. In 1855 came a volume 
of "Literary and Historical Miscellanies." Like Pres- 


cott's "Biographical and Critical Miscellanies," pub- 
lished in 1845, it contained articles prepared for the 
most part for the North American Review. The pieces 
are heavy and diffuse, as are most of the articles in that 
periodical at that time. In 1859 he wrote a "Tribute 
to the Memory of Humboldt," publishing it in the 
series known as The Pulpit and Rostrum. In connec- 
tion with the arbitration of the Northwestern boundary 
dispute he published confidentially in 1872 a "Memo- 
rial on the Canal de Haro as the boundary line of the 
United States of America," an oflScial publication. In 
] 886 he published under the title, "A Plea for the Con- 
stitution of the United States of America Wounded in 
the House of its Guardians, " a vigorous attack on a 
recent decision of the federal supreme court declaring 
that congress had the right to make paper money legal 
tender.^ The court had held that at the time the con- 
stitution was adopted, the power to confer the legal 
tender quality was an element of sovereignty and that 
as the constitution did not withhold this power from 
congress it was given to it along with the general exer- 
cise of the rights of sovereignty. Bancroft traced the 
history of paper money in the colonies and in the states 
until the adoption of the constitution, showing that in 
1787 the right to issue legal tender was recognized as 
an attribute of sovereignty. He cited early opinions 
of judges and statesmen to show that they did not 
consider that the power in question was conferred on 

1 Julliard v. Greenman, 110 U. S. Reports, 421. 


congress. It was a state rights plea, a strong and well 
presented argument, but it attracted little attention 
in the days when the main trend of constitutional 
interpretation was in an opposite direction. 

After Bancroft returned from Berlin he turned again 
to his "History of the United States," the title of 
which was pronounced misleading, since the book did 
not deal with the union at all, but only with the colo- 
nies and the states in revolution. He was sensible of 
the weight of this criticism and determined to carry 
the story forward to the adoption of the federal con- 
stitution. The work was taken up with the old time 
zeal, but it was not carried through with the old time 
success. The two volumes which appeared in 1882 
with the title "History of the Formation of the Con- 
stitution of the United States" lack the fire of origi- 
nality and have not been received as an adequate treat- 
ment of the subject. 

Next he prepared a final edition of his "History." A 
"Centenary Edition" of the first ten volumes, which 
appeared with alterations in 1876, was now subjected 
to a more rigid revision. The text was condensed 
and with the volumes on the constitution the whole 
work appeared in six volumes as "The Author's Last 
Revision" (1883-1885). The edition represented a 
large amount of alteration in style. Naturally ardent 
in his early life, Bancroft was now sobered by years and 
experience. His "Last Revision" embodied the re- 
sults of reflection and criticism. Many of the expres- 


sions which had given offense to the relatives of his- 
torical characters were toned down, and some were 
changed outright. That exuberance of figure that 
gave the early volumes a florid and sometimes a fan- 
tastic form was brought down to the sober narration 
that an age of self-restraint demanded of its historians. 
What men like Theodore Parker, Edward Everett, and 
Emerson, who found the first volumes so "noble," 
would have said of such changes we know not ; but 
they made the work more acceptable to the new genera- 
tion of writers and critics who dominated literary life 
in the last decades of the nineteenth century. As to 
the point of view, it continued what it was at first. 
Bancroft was in theory a democrat, and his book re- 
mains our great defense of the rise of American nation- 
ality, our most fervent great apology for the war of 
independence in all its untutored Americanism. 

Bancroft had a high reputation in his day for ele- 
gant and polished literary orations. He always read 
his productions, but he read with good effect, and he 
was sought for service on occasions in which historical 
information and patriotic emotions were properly 
blended. Some of his best efforts of this kind were pub- 
lished. Among them were the oration at North- 
ampton in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the 
Declaration of Independence ; his oration at Springfield, 
July 4, 1836, a defense of his party principles ; an ora- 
tion before the young democrats of Hartford, February 
18, 1840 ; a eulogy on Andrew Jackson, Washington, June 


27, 1845; an oration on "The Necessity, the Reality, 
and the Promise of the Progress of the Human Race," 
New York, November 20, 1854 ; an oration at the 
inauguration of the Perry statue, Cleveland, Septem- 
ber 10, 1860 ; and two addresses on Lincoln, one in a 
memorial meeting in New York, April 25, 1865, and 
the other in Washington, February 12, 1866. The 
second of the Lincoln addresses was delivered at the 
request of congress before the two houses in joint ses- 
sion, and was probably the most esteemed of all Ban- 
croft's orations. In diction, in elevated sentiment, in 
its power of characterizing the dead Lincoln, it has few 
equals in American eloquence, and it should be read 
by many generations. 

Bancroft lived at a time when his historical investi- 
gation was dependent upon access to materials which 
he himself must collect. Like Sparks, and to a certain 
extent Belknap, he was forced to become a collector of 
manuscripts and transcripts. He was, fortunately, 
able to have transcripts made as freely as he wished. 
In 1869 he said : "The expenses of various kinds in col- 
lecting materials, MSS, and books, in journeys, time 
employed in researches, writing, copyists, money paid 
for examination, etc., etc., might be put without ex- 
aggeration at fifty or even seventy-five thousand 
dollars." The amount mentioned here should not 
stagger us. Any historical scholar of to-day might 
with all sincerity estimate the value of his time em- 
ployed in historical research, the expenses of journeys 


to collect information, and the money spent in pur- 
chasing books and other printed matter at a rather 
large figure. Bancroft undoubtedly spent more freely 
than the average man of his day, and the large collec- 
tion of manuscripts he left, now the property of the 
New York Public Library, is evidence of the liberality 
with which he collected. Few men of his day were 
able to buy so freely. 

His transcripts were taken from the public offices in 
London, Paris, and Berlin. While minister in Europe 
he had better facilities than any other American had 
been given. Sparks not excepted, to secure all that he 
wanted. His reputation as historian had preceded him 
and the keepers of public archives, as well as owners of 
private collections, vied with one another in giving 
him all possible assistance. "People here," he said on 
leaving London, "have heaped me full of documents. 
Lord North's daughter gave me all she had, and all 
her reminiscences to boot. The Duke of Grafton sent 
to my house a big box holding the most private papers 
of the old Duke with the key and unbounded license 
to use the contents at my discretion ; Lord Dartmouth, 
the papers of his pious progenitor who, you remember, 
was 'The one who wears a coronet and prays.' Then 
I have every letter written to every dog of a cutthroat 
that went into the wilderness to set the Indians upon 
us. What need of many words.'' I have nearly all 
said or written in London or Paris or Berlin, etc., etc., 
and as far as eyesight, which these researches wasted 


horribly, and money which I have spent lavishly, 
would permit. And when I get my papers completed, 
and nicely bound with gilt edges at top and nice gilt 
backs, I shall snap my fingers at the whole of your 
Whig party." ^ 

While it was to Bancroft's credit that he collected 
many documents from abroad, the real test of his merit 
in connection with them is the use he made of them. 
And on this point he is indicted by a recent writer in 
the following words : 

"His researches for material both in this country and in Europe 
are described by his friends as the most remarkable ever made- 
Documents and sources of information closed to all others were, 
we are assured, open to him. But, strange to say, we see no result 
of this in his pubhshed work. Nor can any subsequent investigator 
profit by his labors ; the wondrous and mysterious sources of infor- 
mation remain mysterious; and many of his opinions are difficult 
to support with the evidence which the investigators are able to 
find." 2 

In temper this criticism is over-positive, but the 
main accusation, that Bancroft did not make the best 
use of the material at his disposal, is essentially correct. 
How a man should have used Lord North's letters 
without forming some respect for the British point of 
view in the revolutionary controversy is difficult to see, 
unless we are prepared to admit that his historical 
sense was subverted to national prejudice. 

1 Howe, "Life and Letters of George Bancroft," Vol. II, p. 44. 

2 Fisher, Sydney G., "Myth-making Process in Histories of the American 
Revolution" ("Proceedings" of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 
51, p. 69). 


Judging by the slow rate at which the volumes of the 
"History " were published, we must think that Bancroft 
worked intermittently. There were long periods when 
he could have done little, if we may judge by the re- 
sults. But when occupied with one of his volumes he 
worked hard and steadily. He rose at an early hour, 
frequently at five o'clock, breakfasted at 7.30, and 
worked steadily until luncheon, which he took at two. 
In the afternoon he rode horseback, dining at seven 
or half past seven. The evening he gave up to his 
friends, unless he had an engagement abroad. He 
entertained with old-fashioned courtesy, and he was 
noted for his marked attention to ladies. 

In Newport he had a famous rose garden, the culti- 
vation of which he supervised himself. He was known 
to rose-growers throughout the country, and a hand- 
some rose was called the "George Bancroft" in com- 
pliment to him. But Newport was not favorable to 
literary work. He came to like it in the last years of 
his life; but in the middle years he used to desert it 
for his house in New York, where he gave himself up 
to his books. On one of these trips of seclusion he 
wrote to his wife: "Certainly Newport, in contrast 
with my life here, has many superiorities. But in the 
evening the quiet of my room and the comfort of a good 
book were worth more to me than a game of cards 
which I never consent to take in hand without shame 
for a waste of time." ^ 

1 Howe, "Life and Letters of Bancroft," II, 104. 


Students of history will be interested in Bancroft's 
method of writing. He had blank books, quarto in 
size, and gave a day of the year to each page. Then 
he read vastly, setting down on each page all the events 
that happened in the year to which it was devoted. 
He let no event slip, even putting in the phases of the 
moon ; for they sometimes had bearing on the actions 
of men. When he wrote, these books served as skeleton 
outlines. His mass of transcripts do not seem to have 
been indexed, and he probably relied on memory to 
reproduce the ideas in them, using his chronological 
arrangement of events to correct errors He had an 
unusual memory, and it is to his credit that it rarely 
failed him. Although he was many times criticized, it 
was generally for bad judgment rather than for mis- 
takes in facts. 

Bancroft's excellent constitution and regular habits 
served him well for the achievement of an active old 
age. When he resigned his post as minister to Ger- 
many, 1874, he was seventy-four years old, and retired 
because he wished to pass his old age quietly. Yet he 
lived nearly seventeen years thereafter, dying at Wash- 
ington, January 17, 1891, in the ninety-first year of 
his age. Few Americans have won more distinction 
while they lived, or enjoyed their popularity with less 
diminution until the years ran out to an unusual 
length. Bancroft was in the full possession of his fac- 
ulties until a few days before the end, and he continued 
to receive the visits of literary friends and admirers 


until death was at hand. In his old age he was looked 
upon, in America and in Europe, as the greatest living 
American historian ; and although others have ex- 
celled him in several essential qualities, it is still hard 
to point to a man who has written our history more 
acceptably to his age, or who is more likely to be 
remembered in the future as a historian. 

Bancroft's biographer speaks of him as "unweary- 
ing in the pursuit of titanic labors," At the risk of 
seeming repetitious it is worth while to point out that his 
task, viewed as a whole, does not seem titanic. His first 
volume was perhaps begun in 1832, his last, the twelfth, 
was finished fifty years later, in 1882. The twelve 
volumes, including the "History of the Formation of 
the Constitution," contain on an average 141,000 
words each, or about 1,700,000 words in all. Rhodes's 
well-known work contains 1,410,000 words, in seven 
volumes, and it was written in about sixteen years. 
The author, like Bancroft, was a man of leisure and in 
a position to employ assistance as freely as it was 
needed, and the task was certainly not less difficult in 
itself than Bancroft's. Professor McMaster's work 
contains about 2,208,000 words and was completed in 
about thirty-five years, the author being at the same 
time engaged in the active work of teaching. Hil- 
dreth's work, which for accuracy of statement has stood 
the test of time better than Bancroft's, contains about 
1,162,000 words and was probably written in less than 
ten years. If we take out of the fifty years which 


passed between the beginning and the end of Ban- 
croft's work on his "History" the ten which he gave to 
his diplomatic career, he still appears as a slow worker in 
comparison with those other American historians who 
have a right to be ranked in the same circle with him.^ 

' The Bancroft Manuscript Collection 
Bancroft's manuscripts, originals and transcripts, were purchased by 
James Lenox in 1893 and placed in the Lenox Library, whence they have 
come into the possession of the New York Public Library. Among the 
originals were the valuable Samuel Adams Papers, including: (a) letters 
to Adams frono revolutionary leaders, 1300 pieces ; (6) minutes of the 
Boston Committee of Correspondence, 1772-1774 ; (c) letters and papers 
addressed to the Committee, 1772-1775 ; and (d) notes and proceedings of 
the Massachusetts assembly, 1773-1774. Other collections were : the 
papers of Major Joseph Hawley, of Northampton, Massachusetts, 1653- 
1789; the papers of General Riedesel, 1776-1783; the "Anspach Papers," 
1776-1784; and the "Hessian Papers." 

The transcripts include two hundred and ten bound volumes. Among 
them are: "Papers from the English State Papers Office," "Papers from 
Landsdowne House," "Papers from the French Archives," "Austrian 
Papers," "Bertholff Papers," "Bernard Papers," "Brunswick Papers," 
" Chalmers Papers " — on the Carolinas, Georgia, and Rhode Island, "Georgia 
Papers," "Connecticut Papers," "Correspondence of George III.," "Ells- 
worth Papers," "Colden Papers," "Glover Papers," "Hartley Papers," 
" Hollis Papers," " Hutchinson Papers," " W. S. Johnson Papers," " Langdon- 
Elwyn Papers," "Livingston Papers," "Mason Papers," "Marion Papers," 
"Patterson Papers," "Thomas Penn Papers," "Rush Papers," "Schuyler 
Papers," "Warren Papers," "Wayne Papers," "Strachey Papers," "Stiles 
Papers," "Quebec Papers," "Letters of Governor Pownall to Dr. Cooper," 
"President Polk's Diary and Correspondence," "General Greene's Letter- 
Book," and several other collections. 

For information concerning the manuscripts see : Report of the Lenox 
Library, 1893, pp. 10-12; Palsist, "The Manuscripts of the New York 
Public Library" (1915), p. 14; and Sabin, "The Library of the'late Hon. 
George Bancroft," n. d., about 1892. In the Bulletin of the New York 
Public Library, Vol. V., (July, 1901), is a calendar of the "Manuscript 
Collection in the New York Public Library" in which will be found the 
Bancroft items alphabetized with other manuscripts. 


1. William Hickling Prescott 

William Hickling Prescott and John Lothrop 
Motley have been discussed so often as literary men 
that here it is not necessary to do more than assign 
them the places they deserve in the Middle Group 
of our Historians. Neither wrote our own history, 
neither wrote history because he felt a call to set 
forth the story of his country, but each selected history 
as the form of literary achievement in which he could 
find an attractive and appreciated subject for his power 
of narration. Each wrote because it was in him 
to write, following an impulse which we may call pro- 

Prescott and Motley belonged to a small circle of 
educated Bostonians, most of them Harvard gradu- 
ates, who made the first half of the nineteenth century 
as brilliant as another group, — in which were Longfellow, 
Lowell, Holmes, and Emerson, — made brilliant the 
second half of the same century. Of the first group, 
Bancroft, Sparks, and George Ticknor were also 
members. It was a sane group, not given to reforms, 
untouched by the anti-slavery enthusiasm which gave 



a tone of provincialism to the later group. For them 
literature was a profession in which each man strove 
to succeed for the mere love of excelling, not for the 
easing of a conscience big with humanitarian ideals. 

Prescott was born in Salem, May 4, 1796, but his 
father, a lawyer of great ability, moved to Boston 
in 1808. In the city, William early had the run of the 
Boston Athenaeum, already rich in historical litera- 
ture, and he graduated from Harvard in 1814 with 
distinction, being, like many other men of old Har- 
vard who rose to eminence, only eighteen years old. 
While a junior at college one of his eyes was injured 
by a piece of bread thrown in a boyish frolic in the 
Commons Hall with the result that its sight was com- 
pletely destroyed. After graduation his other eye, 
the right, developed inflammation, heightened by in- 
flammatory rheumatism, and for several years he 
could do nothing but nurse it most carefully, lest he be 
left totally blind. A visit to Europe brought no relief, 
and he at last settled down to a state of half invalid- 
ism, sitting for weeks in a dark room, and exercising 
systematically in order that a good state of general 
health might enable him to combat the tendency of 
the eye to deteriorate. Fortunately, he had ample 
means to employ a reader and keep up his intellectual 

Great will power was one of Prescott's character- 
istics, and he determined that his accident should not 
defeat his purpose to lead a useful life. He turned to 


literature and directed his reading with an idea of 
laying the broadest foundation in the cultivated 
branches. Language was mastered as a preliminary, 
and with it went severe drill in the art of literary ex- 
pression. For a time Italian literature fascinated 
him ; but at length he settled upon history, which, he 
said, had been a favorite study from boyhood. 

While gathering up his mental equipment for his 
task he came upon Mably's essay, "Sur I'Etude de 
I'Histoire," published in 1775 for the instruction of 
the heir to the dukedom of Parma. The author had 
many limitations, from the modern standpoint ; but 
he had penetration and laid great stress upon the use 
of dramatic form in presenting historical events. 
Prescott was much impressed and read the book 
through ten times. He also studied carefully the 
construction of Voltaire's "Charles XII" and Ros- 
coe's "Lorenzo de Medici" and "Leo X". 

In the spring of 1826 he definitely settled on the 
reign of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain as his sub- 
ject, and began to collect books upon it. It was a 
theme on which he could find in Spanish and French 
a number of good secondary works and contemporary 
accounts. Such as he could buy were imported, 
while some were obtained by copying them in manu- 
script. He spared no reasonable expense in securing 
his object. He was fortunate in having a good literary 
assistant, who came to him every day at ten and re- 
mained until dinner at three. All this time was spent 


in reading, marking passages that were deemed im- 
portant, and taking notes. For writing Prescott used 
a nocograph, a frame with wires stretched across Hke 
the Hnes on ruled paper. Beneath it was a kind of 
carbon paper, the black side down. Guiding his hand 
with the wire he wrote on the reverse of the carbon- 
paper with an ivory stylus, transferring the mark to a 
sheet of white paper underneath. The rate of progress 
was slow, but at last the book was finished in three 
volumes in 1836. 

The reception of "Ferdinand and Isabella" was 
more favorable than could have been expected. The 
author had serious doubts about the wisdom of an 
American edition, and it was only the strong urging 
of his friends that induced him to permit one to be 
brought out. To his doubts his father said: "The 
man who writes a book which he is afraid to publish is 
a coward"; and as cowardice was a quality entirely 
foreign to the son's nature, the attempt was made. To 
the surprise of all concerned the book succeeded at 
once. The city of Boston took five hundred copies, 
before any could be spared for out-of-town orders ; 
and the first edition of twelve hundred and fifty copies, 
which by the terms of the contract the publishers were 
to have five years to dispose of, were sold in almost as 
many months. This rapid success was partly due to 
the interest his friends felt in the work. No book was 
ever more fortunate in its reviewers. One of them, 
who had read the proofs and advised about the style, 


wrote a long review for the North American ; Bancroft 
wrote for the Democratic Review, and still others wrote 
for other periodicals. When the Boston coterie got 
behind a book, it was most likely to succeed. 

The English edition was equally well received, though 
the sale abroad did not reach that in America. The 
British reviews gave it long and, on the whole, favorable 
notices. The best scholar in the field of Spanish his- 
tory then living on the Continent, Count Adolphe de 
Circourt, gave it a review of more than one hundred 
and eighty pages in the Bihliotheque Universelle de 
Geneve. In every quarter Prescott was hailed as a 
scholar and a charming writer. 

Encouraged by his success, he looked around for 
another subject. For a time he thought of writing a 
life of Moliere, which shows how little he had come 
to look upon himself as merely a historian. But the 
general approval of his efforts in the Spanish field led 
him to decide to write upon the achievements of Cortes 
in Mexico. With his usual thoroughness he sent to 
Madrid for books and ordered copies of the manuscripts 
in the Spanish archives, which had recently been opened 
to students in other countries than Spain. Three 
hundred pounds were sent to Madrid to be used in this 
quest, while liberal orders were placed in London. 
While waiting for this material to arrive he used the 
books he found in the Harvard library. 

When he was fairly at work, his friend, Joseph 
Green Cogswell, in New York, encountered Washington 


Irving in a New York library collecting material for 
the same undertaking. When Irving learned that Pres- 
cott was embarked on this task, he generously retired 
from the field. To Cogswell he said that his work on 
the proposed subject was not well advanced ; but his 
biographer asserted years later that Irving's efforts 
had gone much further than, in his courtesy, he allowed 
Prescott to think. It is rare that we have in our 
literary history so noble an example of an author's 
self-denial ; and it is a fortunate country in the ranks 
of whose historians are at one time two such men so 
well qualified to write brilliantly about an important 
phase of history. 

In the preface to this work Prescott places a state- 
ment, quite casually, which may well be a matter of 
reflection for those who would understand his art 
of presentation. Referring to the fact that he had 
carried his story beyond the capture of the City of 
Mexico, which properly terminated the "Conquest," 
he says in explanation of his course : 

"I am not insensible of the hazard I incur by such a course. 
The mind, previously occupied with one great idea, that of the 
subversion of the capital, may feel the prolongation of the story 
beyond that point superfluous, if not tedious ; and may find it 
difficult, after the excitement caused by witnessing a great national 
catastrophe, to take an interest in the adventures of a private 
individual. Solis ^ took the more politic course of concluding his 

^Antonio de Solis y Rivadeneyra. His "History of the Conquest of 
Mexico by the Spaniards" (1684) was very popular in Spain on account of 
its elegant literary style. It is not reliable for facts, as Prescott admits. 


narrative with the fall of Mexico, and thus leaves his readers with 
the full impression of that memorable event, undisturbed, on their 
minds. To prolong the narrative is to expose the historian to the 
error so much censured by the French critics in some of their most 
celebrated dramas, where the author by a premature dSnouement 
has impaired the interest of his piece." 

Two things are here apparent : first, Prescott wrote 
with his eye fixed on the impression his writing would 
have on the attention of the reader; and second, he 
had a full sense of the similarity of the historian's 
and the dramatist's tasks. Each craftsman was con- 
structing a narrative in which there was unity of 
thought and purpose moving to a climax. 

Prescott's delight in writing spirited and dramatic 
narrative was tried by the necessity, as he deemed it, 
of incorporating at the beginning of his book an 
account of the civilization of the ancient Mexicans. It 
was the kind of didactic composition which is familiar 
enough to modern students of history, who may well 
study his book to see how it can be done without becom- 
ing tedious to the reader. Although Prescott accepted 
the prevailing Spanish theory that the Mexicans were 
more advanced in ideas and manners than we are 
to-day willing to admit, and gave to his story a charac- 
ter that is now practically worthless, his account of 
early Mexican life is a model of good form and enter- 
taining reading. He said that it cost him as much 
labor and nearly as much time as the rest of the 
book, although it filled only half of one of his three 


The "Conquest of Mexico" was published in 1843, 
five years after he had begun to investigate the subject. 
For three of these years he had worked most unre- 
mittingly, a thing he was able to do through a marked 
improvement of his eye. It was with no doubts that 
he awaited the verdict of the public ; for he was now of 
established reputation, and he knew the cunning of his 
own hand. But he could not have been ready for the 
outburst of applause that came from reviewers and 
friends. The sales were large. Five thousand copies 
were disposed of in the United States in four months, 
and an English edition went off in six. Edition after 
edition was called for as the years passed, and it was 
a long time before the book ceased to be a popular 

Allowing himself a short period of rest, "literary 
loafing" he called it, Prescott now turned to the "Con- 
quest of Peru." Here, also, he introduced the narrative 
with a study of social conditions in old Peru. A large 
collection of books on the subject, imported from 
Europe, furnished him with the necessary materials. 
At times he worked with great intenseness. In fact, 
he was so persistent that he strained his eye, and the 
latter part of the task was done chiefly with the aid 
of an assistant. The book was completed late in 1846 
and was published in the spring of 1847. A new book 
by Prescott was now an event. The "Conquest of 
Peru" had an immediate success equal to that of its 
predecessors. . In five months five thousand copies 


were sold in the United States, and half as many 
in Great Britain. It was translated into French, 
German, Spanish, and Dutch. 

Prescott closed his series of works on the Spanish 
relations with a "History of Philip the Second," for 
which he had begun to gather materials as early as 
1842. He advanced to the actual performance of the 
task in 1847, the year after he had completed the 
"Peru." Here, as in writing the "Mexico," he 
learned that he was in conflict with another man. 
Motley, then looking about for a historical subject, 
had hit upon the same theme. Fortunately, he 
learned of Prescott's plans before beginning serious 
labor. Then followed an interview between the 
two men, Prescott urging Motley to go on with his 
plans, saying that there was room for two books on 
the same subject and offering the use of his library 
and manuscripts. Motley was deeply impressed with 
his kindness, but was able to give his own efforts to 
only a part of what might have been considered the 
career of Philip, that part which related to his dealing 
with the Low Countries. 

Prescott, in the meantime, went on slowly with his 
work. In no part of his labors was he more hampered 
by his eyesight. Many days he could use the one eye 
that could yield any comfort for not more than ten 
minutes, and never for more than an hour. He wrote 
the book, as he himself said, under the conditions in 
which a blind man must have written it. Depressed by 


this phase of the matter, he found it diflBcult to lose 
himself in the task. His feelings reacted on his gen- 
eral health, he lost flesh, and those closest to him 
had serious fears for his condition. They at last per- 
suaded him to give up the work for a time and make a 
journey to Europe. Most of 1850 was spent in Eng- 
land and in a flying trip to the Continent; and he 
returned home in excellent spirits. He now worked 
with real enthusiasm ; and in 1855 he published the 
first two volumes. Work on the third volume pro- 
ceeded slowly on account of decreasing strength. 
February 4, 1858, when it was nearing completion, he 
was stricken with apoplexy and for several days 
the gravest consequences were feared. His system, 
however, responded to treatment, and in a few weeks he 
was again able to resume work. But the attack had 
given him fair warning of what he might expect, and 
he hastened to finish the volume, leaving off some of 
the finishing touches he would otherwise have given it. 
Late in the summer the third volume was sent to the 
press. A fourth, which was within his plan, was never 
completed. In fact, his working life was over. After 
a few months of slowly weakening powers his frame 
gave way before a second stroke of apoplexy that came 
upon him just as he was beginning his work for the 
fourth volume. He died on January 28, 1859. 

Every age has its historical ideals just as it has its 
political ideals. In Prescott's time the world liked the 
narrative form best of all. He was a part of his age. 


It was no clever trick of hitting that which was popular 
that made him seek to tell a story well, but a conviction 
shared by all other historians of the day, that history 
was one of the literary arts. He believed intensely in 
the school to which he belonged. As for truth, he was 
not indifferent to it ; and he delved patiently and con- 
scientiously into the great mass of information before 
hitn. That he was not critical in the modern sense 
was due to the ideals of the time. 

His manner of work was very systematic. All his 
forenoons were at his disposal and the first hours of 
the afternoons. He used them conscientiously, when 
he was in the working mood. But he was, like many 
another historian, subject to fits of listlessness, from 
which he sought by many devices to rally himself. 
His "Memoranda," a kind of diary of his literary 
progress kept at intervals, was made the confidant of 
many tricks set to induce himself to live up to his good 
resolutions. When once the fits were over and interest 
in the present task aroused, he worked with happy 
steadiness. He was very human and was apt to take 
his friends into his confidence in regard to all his 
fancied shortcomings. In George Ticknor, the noted 
professor of Spanish literature at Harvard, he had a 
very sympathetic and useful friend; and, as it hap- 
pened, a most enlightening biographer. No historian 
who feels the need of impulse to keep him up to his 
own task can do better than read Ticknor 's "Life of 
William H. Prescott.'* 


Prescott's financial independence was of great ad- 
vantage in his work. It enabled him to secure books, 
to have manuscripts copied, and to employ assistants 
who read for him. In our own day great libraries and 
large manuscript collections ofi^er the poorer student 
that which wealth alone could acquire a century ago, 
and simple living may equalize many other evils of 
poverty. Not every rich man uses his wealth as Pres- 
cott. It was his glory that being able to give himself 
to a life of pleasure, with the excuse of poor health to 
reconcile himself to self-indulgence, he never compro- 
mised with such a temptation and always lived as 
though life had as much an obligation for him as for 

It is an interesting speculation as to how much he 
was, under the circumstances, hindered and how much 
benefited by his defective eyesight. While it made it 
impossible for him to use his eyes in long periods, it 
took from him, on the other hand, a vast amount of 
the social frivolity which is thrust on any but the 
most heroic men under normal conditions. Prescott's 
partial blindness left him free to devote most of his 
available energy to his chosen field. It perhaps served, 
also, to develop the habit of concentration. When a 
man knows that he has only an hour to write in a day, 
he is apt to make that hour express the most exact 
and telling thought of the whole day. By throwing 
much work on the memory that faculty was strength- 
ened. During the periods of enforced inactivity he 


developed his ideas and thus matured in his own mind 
what he meant to write down. 

2. John Lothrop Motley 

As Prescott vanished from the scene of activities 
John Lothrop Motley was just coming upon it. He 
too, was of Boston, son of a wealthy merchant and 
born to the best things that the city could give. He 
was prepared for college at the celebrated Round Hill 
School, in Northampton, entered Harvard in 1827, and 
graduated in 1831, when seventeen years old. From 
1832 to 1834 he was a student at Gottingen and Berlin, 
and returned to Boston to read law, a study for which 
he had little liking. From early life he was given to 
literary efforts, and soon threw aside thoughts of being 
a lawyer to attempt to win fame writing novels. His 
first story, "Morton's Hope," was full of his personal 
feelings and traced his career in Europe with fair ac- 
curacy, but it lacked plot and as a story it was a 

We think of Motley, as of Prescott, as a literary 
historian. He was brought up in a school that loved 
poetry and was acquainted with the great master- 
pieces. He had read much and his mind teemed with 
quotations, but his novels failed because his plots 
were poor. In history he had a plot ready made, and 
he used his imagination in rounding out the plot, 
marshaling the facts in picturesque array, drawing 
vivid character pictures, and adjusting the scenes so 


as to present a wonderful picture. Richness and 
warmth of color, and strong passions, were there, and 
always a deep sympathy with human life. It is to be 
regretted that no adequate biography of the man has 
been written. The volumes of his letters that have 
been published seem to be more concerned with show- 
ing what fine company Motley kept than with revealing 
the manner in which he mastered his craft. It is as an 
historian, and not as a man of the world that Motley 
interests us. This sketch can do no more than enu- 
merate his efforts in history and give the reader an 
inkling of what awaits him when the proper life of the 
man is written. 

In 1841, Motley was appointed secretary of legation 
at Petrograd (St. Petersburg), but the life at court dis- 
gusted him and he resigned in a few months. In 1849 
he was elected member of the Massachusetts House of 
Representatives, but one term in that body convinced 
him that he was no politician. In the same year he 
published another novel, "Merry Mount," written 
several years earlier, but its reception was dismal. At 
this time the only things he had done with real suc- 
cess were some historical and biographical essays for 
the North American Review, in which he had shown 
some of the qualities which were later to make him 
famous. Taking stock of his achievements, he seems 
to have concluded that here was the trail worth follow- 
ing, and he gave himself to history for better or worse. 
He was much influenced by the success of Prescott, 


then at the height of his renown. Turned aside, as 
we have seen, from the hfe of PhiHp the Second, he 
took up the field of Dutch history. It pleased him 
as the struggle of a democratic people against absolute 
power. It was full of dramatic incidents, as all history 
is full, when the right man comes to seek them. To 
get first-hand information he went to the Low Coun- 
tries in 1851, settling finally in Brussels, where he 
buried himself in libraries and document offices. After 
several months in the place he could say that he did 
not know a soul in Brussels. But he knew well the 
city's past. "The dead men of the place," he said, 
"are my intimate friends. I am jat home in any 
cemetery. With the fellows of the sixteenth century 
I am on the most familiar terms. Any ghost that ever 
flits by night across the moonlight square is at once 
hailed by me as a man and a brother. I call him by 
his Christian name at once." 

In 1856 he was ready to publish the result of his 
labor, the "Rise of the Dutch Republic," in three vol- 
umes. He offered the manuscript to Murray, the 
leading London publisher, who refused it. Not 
daunted he brought it out with another firm at his own 
expense, arranging for an American edition at the 
same time. The immediate success of the book was so 
great that Murray wrote, acknowledging his mistake, 
and asking to be allowed to publish the author's next 
work. Froude, himself a great stylist, said in review- 
ing the book: "All the essentials of a great writer 


Mr. Motley eminently possesses. His mind is broad, 
his industry unwearied. In power of dramatic de- 
scription no modern historian, except perhaps Mr. 
Carlyle, surpasses him, and in analysis of character he 
is elaborate and distinct. His principles are those of 
honest love for all which is good and admirable in 
human character wherever he finds it, while he un- 
affectedly hates oppression, and despises selfishness 
with all his heart." Francis Lieber praised the book 
highly and said : "It will leave its distinct mark upon 
the American mind." 

In 1858 Motley returned to Europe from a visit to 
the United States. A brilliant social reception over- 
whelmed him, but he soon fled to his historical materials 
on the Continent. His plans had now taken definite 
shape, and he announced them to his friends. He 
would, he said, write a history of "The Eighty Years' 
War for Liberty, "in three epochs. The first was the 
"Rise of the Dutch Republic," the second he would 
call "Independence Achieved," 1584-1609, and the 
third would be "Independence Recognized," 1609- 
1648. This grand scheme would cut a cross section 
in the history of Europe at one of its most interesting 
and turbulent stages. The scheme was not carried 
out as formed. 

Two years after his return — in 1860 — the world 
received the first two volumes of the "History of the 
United Netherlands." Later in the same year, the 
author hired a house in London, with the intention of 


going on with his work. But the outbreak of the civil 
war brought him back to his native land, where, to 
his surprise, he suddenly found himself packed off to 
Europe again, this time as minister to Austria. The 
great struggle at home absorbed his interest, and 
literary labors advanced slightly until it was evident 
victory was turning to the side of the Union. In his 
letters he spoke longingly of his desire to get back to 
the Dutchmen of the seventeenth century. 

He remained in Vienna until 1866, when he resigned 
in a burst of sensitive anger called forth by an irre- 
sponsible accusation. A letter arrived in Washing- 
ton from one who called himself an American citizen 
traveling in Europe, containing coarse charges against 
several diplomatic representatives of the govern- 
ment in Europe. Motley was charged with being a 
toady to aristocrats, and with criticizing the President, 
Andrew Johnson. Secretary Seward wrote to Mot- 
ley asking for a denial of the charges. The latter took 
this communication as an insult. He felt that his 
government had lost confidence in him, and sent his 
resignation forthwith. 

Two years later, 1868, he published the third and 
fourth volumes of the "History of the United Nether- 
lands." To his friends he announced that he would 
proceed at once with the history of the Thirty Years' 
War, and with this his life-work would be over. But 
he was not to fulfill the promise. Returning the same 
year to Boston he was appointed in the following year 


minister to Great Britain and left for the post at 
once. Of the controversy that arose over his recall in 
1870, this sketch is too short to take full notice. 
SuflSce it to say, that it is generally held that 
President Grant, angered at Senator Sumner's opposi- 
tion to his Santo Domingo treaty, sought to humili- 
ate the Massachusetts senator by removing Motley, 
his friend, from office. The grounds alleged were 
some indiscreet actions of Motley's in negotiations 
that were past more than a year and which Motley 
had every reason to think were condoned and for- 
gotten. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that he was 
the object of very illiberal treatment. 

Deeply wounded in his feelings, Motley turned to 
his pen for consolation. He worked with steadiness 
and pleasure on his great scheme, and in 1874 gave to 
the public the "Life and Death of John of Barneveld, 
Advocate of Holland; with a view of the primary 
Causes and Movements of the Thirty Years' War." 
It was something of a digression from his main ob- 
ject, the Thirty Years' War, but he was interested in 
the career of the man, and he convinced himself that 
its importance justified its rather lengthy insertion 
in his grand series. It was a splendid picture of a 
man's career, vivid, unified and full of force. 

Motley would now have gone on with the last 
part of his scheme. Work was the only solace left 
him after the unhappy ending of his diplomatic career. 
But on the last day of the year in which "Barneveld" 


was published, 1874, Mrs. Motley died. He was 
deeply attached to her, who had been a companion 
in all he did, and his sensitive nature did not recover 
from the shock. Returning the following year to 
Boston on a visit, in which the influence of former 
scenes did nothing to restore his spirits, he went 
back to London to await the end. He died near 
Dorchester, England, in 1877. 

As a literary man Motley must be considered the 
last prominent historian of the early school, or the 
first of the newer school of scientific research. He 
belonged to one or the other, as you will. He was 
modern in the deep devotion he showed for research. 
No document was too old or difficult to balk his patient 
inspection. No one ever delved deeper in archives nor 
knocked more persistently at the closed doors of record 
offices, pounding generally until they were opened. 
On the other hand, he had not the modern historian's 
sense of detachment. He frankly took sides. He 
hated the absolute government of the Spanish mon- 
archy, he disliked the dogmas of the Roman church, 
and he could not abide the repressive spirit of the Ro- 
man hierarchy. His histories were Protestant through 
and through. He drew Philip the Second as black as 
he could, but no blacker than Protestants have drawn 
him through many decades. Motley was a one-sided 

This is not to say that his one-sidedness was utterly 
discreditable. It undoubtedly puts him out of the 


ranks of the moderns. He cannot be called scientific. 
But what he lost in balance he gained in intentness. 
Happy the historian, from his own point of view, who 
has no need to weigh evidence pro and con. For him 
the steady rush of narration, the flicker of light and 
shade in delicate shimmers when needed, or in rich 
bands of gorgeous color when the wizard who manipu- 
lates the brush thinks they are essential to his pic- 
ture. For him also the applause of a broad public. 
American education, universal though it be, has not 
yet resulted in an average man who is capable of 
balanced thought on important historical matters. 
The historian of the future may have the happy fortune 
of knowing that his detached history will find a just 
appreciation from a detached public. At present 
we are in a seemingly transitional stage. He who is 
venturesome enough to write a book, dares not make 
it the defense of any particular view, lest he perish at 
the hands of the critics ; nor does he relish displeasing 
the public, since in so doing he may die of malnutri- 
tion. His only refuge is to flee to the house of the 
pedagogue, where food and raiment at least may 
be had. 

Oliver Wendell Holmes aptly compares Motley's 
style to Rubens' paintings. "There is a certain 
aflSnity," he says, "between those sumptuous and 
glowing works of art and the prose pictures of the 
historian who so admired them. He was himself 
a colorist in language, and called up the image of a 


great personage or a splendid pageant of the past 
with the same affluence, the same rich vitaUty, that 
floods and warms the vast areas of canvas over which 
the full-fed genius of Rubens disported itself in the 
luxury of imaginative creation." The words are well 
chosen. Motley was a colorist. His compositions 
were large and well lit up with line and pigment. 
If it is the simple and strong feeling of Jean Frangois 
Millet that you like do not look for it here. The 
Dutchman painted religious and royal scenes, the 
American portrayed religious and courtly struggles. 
Saints, princes, and courtiers fill the canvas of the 
one ; theologians, rulers, and diplomatists fill the pages 
of the other. 

As for me, I prefer the less magnificent portrayals 
of Prescott. Here are heroes also, hidalgos and stark 
warriors, but they do not march in gangs. Each 
man stands out in simple outlines, and it is not difficult 
to see what he is doing. Prescott, also, was more 
direct in his language and more symmetrical in his 
chapter constructions. I get lost at times in the mazes 
of courtly intrigue that Motley reproduces, and I 
cannot help feeling that somehow Prescott would 
have found a way of cutting vistas through them, 
so that I could see my way ahead. 

It is impossible to read the books of the more popu- 
lar historians of the middle group without having a 
feeling of admiration for their careful mastery of the 
arts of narration. No living man of the new school 


has won, or is likely to win, as much success as they won 
in their day. We could not go back to their school — 
that would be retrogressing; but if we could only 
bring forward their best qualities into our own group 
of scholarly and conscientious workers, the results 
would be well worth the efiFort. 



1. His Early Career 

Peter Force was born of poor parents at Passaic 
Falls, New Jersey, November 26, 1790. Three years 
later the family moved to the town of New York, 
where the boy got such a smattering of education as 
was then offered in the schools of the poor. His 
father died soon afterwards, and Peter at about the 
age of twelve entered the printing oflBce of William 
Davis, a man of enough local importance to become 
an alderman. Davis's establishment was at Blooming- 
dale, about five miles north of the Battery ; and the 
small village was rich in Dutch traditions. Steady hab- 
its, industry, and the faculty of accepting responsibility 
made young Force a marked boy among the in- 
mates of the shop, and at the age of sixteen he was a 

A story of this early period of his life represents 
him as sent, while still a printer's boy, to carry to 
the author the proof of the revised edition of Irving's 
"Knickerbocker History of New York." Sitting by 
the roadside to read the fascinating story, he came 
to a place in which the author had mentioned some 



typical Dutch families. In the margin Peter wrote 
several other names, gathered from his observations 
in Bloomingdale, and Irving allowed them to stand. 
Many years later Force met Irving and told him to 
whom he was indebted for this bit of literary collabora- 
tion. So runs the story, which Lossing says he had 
from Force himself. It is somewhat spoiled by the 
fact that "Knickerbocker" was first published in 
December, 1809, and the second edition, published in 
New York, appeared in 1812. At that time Peter 
Force was twenty-two years old, and had been nearly 
six years head of the printing shop. He was hardly 
likely to be sent back and forth with proof at that age.^ 
The year 1812 brought him an honor still more 
significant in his election to the presidency of the 
Typographical Society of New York. Such an eleva- 
tion to high rank of a man of twenty-two indicates 
that he had the power of leadership. He was equally 
earnest in the militia of New York and during the war 
served two tours of duty of three months each. Here 
also, he inspired confidence, and in 1815, after having 
served as a sergeant and sergeant-major, he was com- 
missioned ensign, and in the following year was lieu- 
tenant of militia. 

* March 29, 1812, Irving wrote Brevoort that he had made a bargain 
with Inskeep, to bring out the revised edition and said he was "about pub- 
lishing." He was then living with Mrs. Ryckman, on Broadway, near 
Bowling Green, where Brevoort had also lived until a few months previously 
he had left for Europe. During the summer, however, Irving resided near 
Hellgate for a few weeks. See Pierre M. Irving, "Life and Letters of 
Washington Irving," I, 281, 283. 


In the latter year his scene of activity shifted. His 
employer, Davis, had political influence, and being 
awarded a contract for a part of the printing of the 
federal government found it advisable to open a shop 
in Washington City. He sent Force to take charge 
of the enterprise, and immediately, or soon after- 
wards, the new oflfice was conducted under the firm 
name of Davis and Force. 

By nature Peter Force was not suited to play the 
part of government printer. He was a man of down- 
right principles, outspoken, and unwilling to bend to 
the winds of party favor. He was such a man as 
would take a dominant position in whatever group he 
made a part, and he would not follow orders. 

All through his residence in Washington he was 
active in local affairs. He became as prominent in the 
militia of the District of Columbia as he had been 
in New York. Promotions came in due time. He 
was a captain of artillery in 1824, a lieutenant- 
colonel in 1830, a colonel of artillery in 1840, and 
a major-general of militia in 1860. Throughout his 
later career he was generally known as "Colonel 
Force." At the same time that he rose in the militia 
he rose in local politics. He was elected to the city 
council in 1832, and soon afterwards became its presi- 
dent. Next he became an alderman and president 
of the board of aldermen; and in 1836 he became 
mayor, holding the position for four years. These 
successes were based on his popularity with the masses 


of his fellow citizens. He was a self-made man of 
fine natural parts, and the people felt that he was one 
of them. One who had received better educational 
advantages, or who was born to higher rank, would 
probably have been little interested in the honors 
which Washington politics and militia service could have 
bestowed. In a city like the national capital he would 
probably have aspired to fill some high federal office. 

Force's love of books was another phase of his 
character, and with advancing years it came to rule 
all other desires. When still a boy he is said to have 
written "The Unwritten History of the War in New 
Jersey," a collection of revolutionary stories he had 
heard at the fireside of his father, who was a revolu- 
tionary soldier. The manuscript was lost before the 
boy was old enough to put it into type, but writing 
it shows the bent of his mind from his earliest years. 

His next literary project, it seems, was a literary 
journal, the prospectus for which was dated December 
6, 1817. It was to be known as The American Quar- 
terly Review, and the first number, announced for 
April, 1818, was to contain articles on General Wil- 
kinson's "Memoirs" and Wirt's "Life of Patrick 
Henry," besides a history of the proceedings and de- 
bates of the first session of the fifteenth congress. 
The enterprise was rashly planned and it seems that 
the first number did not appear, although the pro- 
spectus was inserted in the National Intelligencer, 
January 3, 1818. 


In 1820-1828 Force compiled and published the 
"Biennial Register," a book brought out by order of 
congress with the names of public officials and much 
information about the machinery of the government. 
Force changed the name to the "Blue Book." ^ In the 
same year he began to publish, on his own account, the 
"National Calendar and Annals of the United States." 
It contained matter so much like that of the "Blue 
Book" as to suggest that he merely enlarged the gov- 
ernment document by the addition of other matter 
and published it with a change of title. The "Calen- 
dar" was issued annually, until 1838,^ with the excep- 
tion of the years 1825, 1826, and 1827. It contained 
statistics of both federal and state affairs. 

In 1823 Force established the National Journal, 
for several years an influential newspaper in the capi- 
tal. A prospectus, dated August, 1823, announced 
that the paper would be issued twice a week, with a 
weekly "Extra," containing congressional debates, 
reports, and laws. The prospectus was unsigned, 
but it directed that communications relating to the 
enterprise be sent to Davis and Force, printers and 
stationers. In August, 1824, the paper became a daily. 
From the first it was an Adams organ, although its 
editor had furnished all the money for its establish- 
ment. It was, in fact, a most independent party 

* See an article from the Round Table, reprinted in the Historical Maga- 
zine, IX, pp. 335-338 (1865). 

^ So says Sabin, but I have found no set that goes further than 1836. 
— Author. 


paper, and the Adams leaders were disappointed at its 
lack of fervor. Several of them held a meeting to 
determine what was to be done. They finally sent 
one of their number to suggest that the editor should 
allow a committee of his friends to assist him in his 
editorial labors. When the cautious emissary dropped 
the first hint of his plan, Force said with decision : 
"But I do not suppose any gentleman would make 
such a proposition to me ! " The messenger retreated 
as gracefully as he could, and nothing further was said 
about the plan to put the editorship in commission. 
In 1830 Force retired from the conduct of the paper, 
which suspended publication soon afterwards. At 
that time the Adams party was a thing of the past. 
Clay's more energetic and less conservative leadership 
demanded a more partisan organ than Force was 
capable of conducting. 

Force is sometimes said to have published the "Di- 
rectory of Congress," but he seems to have had no 
other connection with it than to print it. This enter- 
prise goes back as early as 1809, when there began a 
series of annuals, under one name or another, in 
which were given the names and residences of members 
of congress and other prominent oflBcials. For a 
long time it was published by Jonathan Elliot, Jr. 
Blair and Rives sometimes brought it out, and some- 
times we find two editions for the same year, ap- 
parently identical except as to title-page. It was a 
private enterprise and was probably intended chiefly 


for the use of those whom business or curiosity im- 
pelled to seek the federal officials. Force's name 
appears on an edition of 1820, The edition of 1839 
contained diagrams showing the seating of the senate 
and the house. It was a feature likely to find favor 
with those who occupied the galleries in the capitol. 
In 1841 and 1842 an edition appeared with Peter 
Force's imprint. It was identical with an edition 
in the same years with the imprint of Robert Farnham. 
In 1843-1844 came an edition by W. Q. Force, son of 
Colonel Force, and with that ends the connection 
of the family with the " Directory of Congress." The 
remainder of this story deals with the historical activi- 
ties of Colonel Force, which constitute my sole reason 
for laying his career before the reader. 

"2. The American Archives ; Origin of the Enterprise 

It is not easy to find the origin of a movement 
which between the years 1827 and 1837 resulted in 
the publication of Sparks's "Diplomatic Correspond- 
ence of the American Revolution" and the beginning 
of his great work on Washington, the publication 
of Blair and Rives's collection of "State Papers," 
and the fair launching of Colonel Peter Force's 
great series the "American Archives." We find the 
idea that inspired all these works in the "Document- 
ary History of the Revolution," planned by Ebenezer 
Hazard just after the revolution, but never carried 
to completion. It reappears in Jedediah Morse's 


"Annals of the American Revolution," 1824, an in- 
adequate compilation which made only a slight im- 
pression on either contemporaries or posterity. But 
while we are guessing we cannot ignore the influence 
of Chalmers's "Political Annals of the Colonies," 
1780,^ a well- written work based upon original materials 
in the British public offices. Frequent mention of 
Chalmers's book is made in the letters of the men of 
the period under consideration, and it was a constant 
reminder to them of the need of collecting and using 
the scattered materials in the various parts of our 
own country. 

Probably the earliest compendious scheme for a 
historical work at the epoch just mentioned was that 
projected as early as 1819 by Judge Archibald D. 
Murphey, of North Carolina. An able lawyer with 
an active practice, he had no special training for 
history writing; but his strong mind and deep 
interest in every phase of the life of the people 
led him to plan an all-embracing treatment of the 
state's history. If carried out as announced it 
would have required five volumes to treat of the 
early charters, the military and civil affairs, the physi- 
cal condition, the progress of society, and the economic 
development of North Carolina. No state has, up 
to this day, written its history so extensively. 
Judge Murphey collected materials, mostly, it seems, 

^ His "Introduction to the History of the Revolt " was not published 
until 1845. 


the reminiscences of men living in his day. After a 
time he came to realize that he needed documents in 
the keeping of the British government, in London; 
and in 1825 he called upon the assembly for aid in 
publishing the work. He was given authority to 
establish a lottery to raise money in order to send an 
agent to London to collect materials and to defray 
the expenses of publication. The project was well 
received by the newspapers, and Fourth-of-July toasts 
were drunk to its success, but the tickets sold slowly. 
In 1827 the assembly took steps by which the lottery 
could be enlarged so that he could raise $25,000 
instead of the $15,000 first authorized.^ Nothing came 
of these efforts, and in 1832 Murphey died, overwhelmed 
with debt and disappointment. His proposed his- 
tory got no further than the collection of some of the 
materials he needed. He wrote a polished sentence 
and had a proper sense of the valuable things of his- 
tory. Had he lived longer, and had he found him- 
self master of enough time and concentration to carry 
through his scheme as planned, we should have 
possessed, in all likelihood, in his five or six volumes, 
a noble state history. 

About this time several states made feeble efforts 
to get copies of historical papers from the public 
offices in England. Perhaps the first to act was North 

1 Hoyt, editor, "The Papers of Archibald D. Murphey," 2 vols.. Pubs. 
N. C. Histl. Commission, I, 146, 187-206, 208-216, 220-238, 323-324, 326, 
332, 338-341, 347 n, 350-353, 357. 361, 364, 395, 399; II, 361-363, 414, 
and passim. 



Carolina, which in 1825, as we have seen, gave Mur- 
phey permission to estabHsh a lottery, part of the 
proceeds of which were to be used in making copies 
in London. February 9, 1827, the assembly directed 
the governor to apply through the American minis- 
ter in England for permission to copy historical 
documents relating to the colony of North Carolina. 
Cordial replies were received, granting the liberty to 
make copies of the papers in the custody of the 
board of trade and those indicated in a list which 
was forwarded. In 1825 a similar favor had been 
granted in reference to the records of the colony of 
Georgia, the request in this case coming from a pri- 
vate individual, Mr. Tattnall. November 15, 1826, 
Governor Troup recommended to the assembly that 
the state historiographer be sent to London to obtain 
the desired copies. December 7, 1827, the senate of 
South Carolina resolved that similar copies relating 
to the history of that state should be made; and in 
1830 Henry N. Cruger, a citizen of the state, returned 
from England with a report on the whereabouts of 
the several kinds of papers on South Carolina history 
in the British public offices. All these efforts were 
without favorable results. They seem to have been 
due to the activities of a few individuals, who soon 
ceased to press them.^ 

1 Clarke and Force, "Report to Secretary Forsythe on the Documentary 
History of the United States, pp. 14-22. See also Hoyt, editor, loc. cit., 
II., 362. 


In the same year, 1827, a similar series of efforts 
was made in New England. The general assembly 
of Rhode Island voted that the state's senators and 
representatives be requested to endeavor to get the 
federal government to obtain copies of papers in the 
British offices "relating to the early history of this 
country." January 24, in the same year, the Ameri- 
can Antiquarian Society voted to ask the Massachu- 
setts delegation to use their efforts to the same end ; 
and about the same time the Massachusetts Histori- 
cal Society passed similar resolutions, signed by John 
Davis, James Savage, and James Bowdoin.^ It seems 
hardly probable that the year 1827 should have seen 
so many and such widely separated efforts of a similar 
nature without some common course. Who stimulated 
this action it is impossible to tell. It could hardly 
have been Sparks ; for although he made his first 
journey into the South to collect materials in 1826, 
his ample biography and his diary as well give 
no intimation that he had aught to do with the state 
efforts. It could not have been Bancroft ; for he was 
still engrossed with the duties of schoolmaster at 
Northampton, and what literary opportunity he had 
was directed to schoolbooks and magazine articles. 
Nor could it have been Judge Murphey ; for his influ- 
ence was strictly local. Probably the movement was 
in the air, and Murphey, Sparks, state officials, and 
learned societies acted from a general impulse. 

^ Clarke and Force, "Report to Secretary Forsythe," pp. 22-26. 


It was in the midst of this revival of interest in his- 
tory that Peter Force came into the field as a collector 
of historical documents and as a compiler and publisher. 
When and how he formed his great project does not 
appear. He had a partner in the enterprise, but 
since he was the sustaining factor of the plan on its 
intellectual side, it is fair to assume that it originated 
with him, and there is no good reason to doubt his 
statement that he began to gather historical materials 
as early as 1822. His design was to publish in one 
collection all the historical evidence bearing on the 
revolution. We shall see how the scheme was ampli- 
fied as he became better acquainted with the conditions 
under which it was to be carried through. From the 
first it was his intention that his publication should 
be a complete embodiment of all the material he could 
find on the subject proposed. 

Force's partner was Matthew St. Clair Clarke, a 
native of Pennsylvania, who was clerk of the house of 
Representatives from 1822 to 1833, when he was de- 
feated by Walter S. Franklin, also of Pennsylvania. 
He was again elected to the same position in 1841, 
and served for two years, ^ after which he appears as 
sixth auditor of the treasury department. That he 
was a man of wealth is shown by the fact that in the 
latter part of his career he lived in what was popu- 
larly said to be the finest house in Washington, on 
what was then called President's Square. He fur- 

^ House Journals, passim. 


nished the money for expenses, while Force collected 
materials, and it is evident that the partners relied on 
his political influence to get the congressional appro- 
priation on which depended the success of the under- 

In a statement which they laid before the secretary 
of state, 1834, explaining their plans, we find this as- 
sertion : "About twelve years ago the plan of our 
work was originally fixed upon. It began by the pur- 
chase and critical examination of books, pamphlets, 
newspapers, and early periodical publications, con- 
taining or referring to documents, correspondence, 
speeches, parliamentary and legislative proceedings, 
etc., etc. Of these a large and very valuable collection 
has been made, containing many papers not else- 
where to be found. During great part of the time 
our progress was necessarily slow. For the last five 
years, Mr. Force, excepting a short time in each year, 
expended on his Annual Register, has been devoted to 
this work, to the exclusion of every other pursuit." ^ 

Since Force gave up the editorship of the Journal 
early in 1830, we may fix upon the end of 1829 as the 
time at which he gave himself up entirely to his 
project. In 1829 appeared the first volume of Sparks's 
"Diplomatic Correspondence" and eighteen months 
later the work was completed in twelve volumes. 
The editor's net profits must have been very satisfac- 
tory at a time when a salary of two thousand dollars 

1 Forsyth's Report, 1834. 


a year was considered good. In 1832 Blair and Rives, 
snatching it out of the very hands of Sparks, got a 
contract to continue this publication for the years 
1783-1789. Gales and Seaton got a contract in 1831 to 
publish the " American State Papers " at remunerative 
prices.^ Seeing these fine opportunities going into the 
hands of other men, probably spurred Force on to 
action. In 1832 he had formed his partnership with 
Clarke and the two men were standing cap in hand 
before the door of the government. It would be 
pleasant to speak of these various enterprises as dis- 
interested labors of men devoted to scholarship ; 
but such language would be only half the truth. They 
were planned by persons who saw in government 
contracts opportunities to make money. The rap- 
idity with which one application followed another 
shows how quickly the men concerned saw the advan- 
tage that lay in the business. It is fair to say that 
Force was, probably, least selfish of all the group. 
He was filled with a genuine devotion to an idea, but 
he was saturated with the spirit of Washington City, 
and he held steadfastly to the idea that he could get 
congress to publish his work and purchase the great 
collection of materials he was gathering. 

3. Relations with the Government 

It was in 1831, the year in which Blair and Rives, 
and Gales and Seaton, secured their contracts, that 

^ See above, p. 82. 


Clarke and Force also began to seek recognition. 
July 18, they sent a memorial to Edward Livingston, 
secretary of state, proposing to publish "A Documen- 
tary History of the American Revolution, from the 
Commencement of the Restrictive Measures of Great 
Britain to the adoption of the Constitution of the 
United States in 1789." The work was to be in six 
divisions, as follows : 1. The origins of the several 
colonies, their charters and public papers up to 
1763 ; 2. Materials on the years 1763 to 1765 ; 3. Ma- 
terials on the years 1765 to 1774 ; 4. Materials on the 
period from the meeting of the first continental con- 
gress to the adoption of the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence ; 5. Materials on the years from the adoption 
of the Declaration to the treaty of peace, 1776 to 
1783 ; and 6. Materials on the period from the 
treaty of peace to the adoption of the constitution, 
1783 to 1789. The memorialists said nothing at this 
time about compensation, but asked permission to 
copy and publish the papers in the public offices. The 
secretary replied, July 20, giving the desired per- 

Early in 1832 the matter was before Congress.^ 
Clarke now saw Edward Everett, ever a patron of 
enterprises that had a literary flavor. February 1 he 
wrote saying that he would agree to print and deliver to 
the government 1500 copies of his proposed work at ten 

1 G. C. Verplanck to Jared Sparks, Jan 17. 1832. Sparks MSS. Har- 
vard University Library. 


dollars a volume, the form to be like that of the "Amer- 
ican State Papers," which Gales and Seaton were then 
getting out.^ He and Force would procure the copies 
of the papers to be published, with the exception of 
those that came from abroad, which he wished the 
government to furnish. In making his appeal Clarke 
referred to the vote of congress in 1781, in aid of 
Hazard's proposed "Documentary History of the 
Revolution," using it as a precedent for his and Force's 
request. In June, 1832, a bill was before congress 
subscribing to the proposed work at the rate of eight 
dollars a volume of eight hundred pages. It was 
voted down because the price was considered exces- 
sive.2 In the following winter another bill appeared. 
It authorized the secretary of state to contract with 
Clarke and Force for the publication of "The Docu- 
mentary History of the Revolution," provided the cost 
a volume should not be higher than that of Sparks 's 
"Diplomatic Correspondence." The bill became a law 
on March 2, 1833, being carried through at the close 
of a strenuous session, in which nullification and the 
"Force bill" were the overwhelming topics of debate.^ 
Livingston now completed the contract in due 
form. Sparks's work had appeared in octavo form and 
the government had paid for it at the rate of $2.57^ 

^ As clerk of the house of representatives, Clarke, with Lowrie, secretary 
of the senate, super\dsed the publication of the "State Papers," nine vol- 
umes of which appeared in 1832. 

2 Debates in Congress, 1835-1836, 3303 (Vol. XII, Part III). 

3 Peters, "U. S. Statutes at Large," IV, 654. 


a page, taking 1000 copies averaging 537^ pages each. 
As the new work was to be folio in size and the number 
of copies were to be distributed liberally among the 
congressmen and the persons and institutions to 
which congress would wish to give them, 1500 copies 
were to be ordered. A practical printer was called 
on for an estimate transmuting the cost a volume of 
Sparks's book into that of the proposed work. The 
result was that it was agreed that the government 
would take fifteen hundred copies of the work in folio 
at the rate of one and seven-eighths cents a page a 
copy. Clarke and Force were to do all the work of 
collecting, editing, and printing at their own expense. 
In the rate hit upon, a small sum was allowed for in- 
dices, which were not in the "Diplomatic Corre- 
spondence." As each volume would have about eight 
hundred pages, the publishers would receive about 
fifteen dollars for it; that is, about twenty-two 
thousand five hundred dollars for each edition deliv- 

Among the Force manuscripts are some memoranda 
which Force submitted to Clarke, who was not a 
printer, February 1, 1832, showing what the two men 
then thought of the enterprise as a business venture. 
Force said that five volumes would be required to 
carry out his plans, and for all of them in the size and 
style of the "State Papers," which he thought the pref- 
erable form, he gave the following estimate of the cost : 
"Paper, $9,375; composition, $6,912; presswork, 


$4,320; binding, $7,500; total, $28,107." He pro- 
posed that the volumes be delivered for ten dollars 
each if a thousand were taken, or for eight dollars 
each if fifteen hundred were taken. The figures quoted 
are on the basis of five volumes with fifteen hundred 
copies of each. Force's memorandum also places 
the receipts from the sale at $75,000, showing that he 
was thinking of ten dollars a volume, instead of eight. 
On this basis he made the profit of the enterprise $46,893. 
But from it he has subtracted $15,000 without indi- 
cating the purpose. It is a fair guess that he meant 
that amount, $3000 a volume, to be deducted as the 
editor's pay for his services. 

The estimate just given was modest in comparison 
with what came later. It showed Force's idea of the 
project in 1832, when he could hardly have had a cor- 
rect view of the nature of the work upon which he 
wished to enter. Clarke, long accustomed, as clerk 
of the house, to the ways by which the government 
may be made to yield its favors, had a better realiza- 
tion of the opportunity before him. Among the manu- 
scripts is the following for 1833, representing what the 
partners had in mind when the contract with the 
secretary of state was actually made : " Expense 
per volume according to the accompanying estimates, 
all of which are of the highest rates. The calculation 
is for a volume of 850 pages. 1. Printing, $3,612.50; 
2. Binding, $2,250.00 ; 3. Paper, $2,232.00 ; 4. Index 
and other expenses, $2,580.00. Total, $10,674.50. 


Leaves, over and above estimated expenses per 
volume, $11,000. The contract price for a vol- 
ume of 850 pages, $21,675.00." Along with this memo- 
randum is an estimate from a printer, R. S. 
Coxe; and in it is the following: "P, F. Shall, if he 
chooses, print and bind the work, in the manner and 
form required by the contract with the secretary of 
state on the following terms : 1. For Printing (includ- 
ing composition and press work), four dollars and 
twenty-five cents per page ; 2. For Binding, one dollar 
and fifty cents per copy." It seems that Force and 
Clarke were thus paid at a higher rate than Gales and 
Seaton, although they claimed that their compensa- 
tion was at a slightly lower rate than that of Sparks. 
Force himself, just quoted, said that the former were 
paid at the rate of eight dollars a volume for fifteen 
hundred copies and ten dollars a volume for one thou- 
sand volumes. But his own volumes, which contained 
only eighty-three per cent, as many words on the page 
as Gales and Seaton's, were sold to the government at 
fifteen dollars a volume for fifteen hundred copies.^ 
This point should be borne in mind in connection 
with the great popular dissatisfaction when the terms 
of the agreement become known. 

The contract signed, the two partners turned with 
zeal to the work of collecting materials. Force, it is 
true, had been collecting pamphlets and books for 
many years, but he had probably done little in gather- 

1 Force MSS. Library of Congress. 


ing the actual manuscript materials. In the autumn 
of 1833 he was in New England, visiting state capitals, 
selecting documents and leaving orders for copies. 
Clarke was paying the bills, and at one time had so 
much difficulty to get money that his partner, at 
Concord, New Hampshire, was seriously inconven- 
ienced. Clarke himself was in Boston and looked 
over the manuscripts in the possession of the Massa- 
chusetts Historical Society. When he saw how many 
there were he was horrified.^ 

He soon had other cause for anxiety. Both he and 
Force were supporters of Clay, and as such they were 
likely in 1834, when Clay was making his bitterest 
attacks on Jackson, to be the objects of the resent- 
ment of the supporters of Jackson. The attorney- 
general, Butler, of New York, was called on for his 
opinion on the legality of the contract. He could 
not deny that the agreement was legally made, but 
he declared that it was a bad bargain for the govern- 
ment, since it was unlimited as to the number of 
volumes and the final cost might be very great. To 
meet these objections Clarke, April 17, appealed to 
Polk, chairman of the ways and means committee. It 
was the nature of a work like this, he said, that it was 
impossible to tell how large it would become, since the 
materials were still unearthed. He and Force had 
suggested in the beginning that congress should 

1 Force to Clarke, Sept. 14, 1833; Clarke to Force, Sept. 12, 1833. 
Force MSS. 


create a tribunal to determine what should go into 
the series, but the suggestion was ignored. They did 
not think the American people would object to paying 
thirty or forty thousand dollars a year to preserve their 
history in a form more reliable and complete than any 
other nation could hope to have of the history of its 
early years. Clarke closed by asking for an advance to 
pay for the expenses of preparing the first volume for 
the press. He said he hoped to bring out in 1835 all 
the documents on the years from May, 1774, to the 
end of 1776.^ To Senator Chambers, of Maryland, 
who had said that the number of volumes might reach 
one hundred, Clarke replied it had been agreed that this 
was a matter which should be left to the judgment of 
the compilers, but that he was willing, if it was thought 
wise, to limit the work to twenty volumes.^ 

Livingston ceased to be secretary of state May 29, 
1833. He was followed by Louis McLane, who seems to 
have had little interest in the "Documentary History." 
After him came John Forsyth, whose commission 
was dated June 27, 1834, but who actually entered 
office on July 1, not to leave it until March 3, 1841, 
when the Whigs came into power. Forsyth was a 
senator from Georgia in 1833 and had at that time op- 
posed the bill granting the request of Clarke and Force. 
Two days after his commission was dated, and two 
days before he entered office, congress instructed the 

1 Force MSS. 

2 Clarke to Chambers, June 20, 1834, Force MSS. 


secretary of state to examine the contract with the 
two partners and to report on the nature of the mate- 
rials to be included in the work, the number of volumes, 
and the estimated cost of the whole. There are evi- 
dences that the partners were in a panicky state of 
mind, and in Force's manuscripts is a copy in his own 
hand of an "additional covenant" dated June 7, 
when the blow was foreseen, offering to limit the edi- 
tion to twenty volumes and to submit all the material 
before printing to the approval of the secretary of 
state. This proposal was not then accepted. 

December 22, 1834, Forsyth sent in the report re- 
quired of him. Neither the contract nor the law, he 
said, indicated what kind of materials would be used 
in the proposed work. The compilers referred to it as 
a "Documentary History of the American Revolution 
from the Commencement of the Restrictive Measures 
of Great Britain to the Adoption of the Present Con- 
stitution of the United States"; but from the plan 
announced it seemed that the materials would begin 
with the origins of the colonies. The compilers re- 
ported, he continued, that they had examined the 
archives of ten of the original thirteen states and that 
they had made copies or were about to make them for 
the other three. In all they had copied, or were 
about to copy, 60,000 manuscript pages distributed as 
follows : in the state department and referring to the 
continental congress, 30,000 ; state records in Geor- 
gia, New Hampshire and elsewhere, 20,000; from old 


periodicals etc., 5000 ; and on New England, 1774- 
1776, 5000. Material was on hand for several vol- 
umes, though there were some gaps which the com- 
pilers were trying hard to fill up. They added that 
they would soon begin to print the first volume of 
Series IV and hoped to deliver it early in the next 
session of congress, that is, in December, 1835. 
They had not, however, been able to get permission to 
take copies freely from the public offices in England. 
Thus spoke Clarke and Force to the secretary of 

Forsyth said that the contract was "uncertain and 
defective," but he was unwilling to say how far congress 
could remedy the deficiency. At present the only 
control over the compilers was to withhold payment 
if the work was not done as agreed. He reported that 
Clarke and Force were willing to limit themselves 
to twenty volumes, saying that if at the end of that 
number the work seemed incomplete they would 
ask congress to continue it. On this basis the total 
cost would be limited to $20,400 a volume, or $408,000 
for the twenty volumes. These concessions were not 
satisfactory to the secretary, who recommended in 
closing that congress take steps to regulate the size 
and number of volumes, and fix the time at which the 
work should be completed. He also thought that there 
should be a proper supervision of the selection of the 
matter published, that much might well be omitted, 
and that in general papers already in print and very 


triWal papers of any kind ought not to be included.^ 
Nothing was done at the time to carry out the recom- 
mendations of the secretary. 

However much we have at heart the cause of his- 
torical pubUcation, we must agree that Forsyth had 
much truth on his side. Livingston had made a loose 
arrangement imder which a designing man could have 
saddled the government with a large and indefinite 
expense. Force's character was such that we cannot 
charge him with entirely selfish motives ; but Clarke 
was a politician, and there is no reason to believe that 
he was better than the average of his kind in his day. 
Certainly, Forsyth and many others looked upon the 
two men as persons who had secured a fat job at the 
expense of a careless congress and secretary of state, 
and the impression thus formed embarrassed the part- 
ners as long as their enterprise continued. 

They suffered also through the impatience of the 
congressmen to get the free copies which had been 
voted them. As the months ran into years and no 
copies of the "Documentary History" were sent out, 
members began to inquire what progress was being 
made. To one such inquirer Force wrote February 3, 
1837, quieting his anxiety and saWng that one volume 
was in press, that materials collected were sufficient 
to make ten volumes, and that he would be pleased 

1 23d cong.. id sess.. House of Reps., State Dept.. Doc. No. 86. Appended 
to the report were petitions and statements by Clarke and Force, from 
which fact the document is frequently catalogued under their names. 


to have congressmen inspect what had been done.^ 
The view of the public at large was expressed by a 
correspondent of the Boston Courier, April 21, 1836, 
who said that the scheme began with Hazard in 1789, 
who issued two volumes and made money out of them.^ 
"From the year 1789 to 1833, a period of forty-four 
years," he said, "the work was forgotten, but in the 
latter year Matthew St. Clair Clarke, losing his office 
of clerk, memorialized congress," which agreed without 
stopping to inquire how many volumes could be printed. 
It now appeared that if the compilers went on as they 
intended, the work would cost the public .$.500,000. 

This notice in the Courier was probably called forth 
by a warm debate in the house of representatives in 
April, 1836. Clarke and Force at this time had been 
collecting materials for some time and they had ac- 
cumulated debts to the amount of .$3.5,000 on account 
of the enterprise.^ They were anxious to have an 
appropriation authorized, so that it w^ould be imme- 
diately available on the completion of the first volume. 
When the general appropriation bill reached the com- 
mittee of the whole in the spring of 1836 it contained an 
item of $20,000 for the " Documentary History." This 
item provoked the discussion to which the Courier 
undoubtedly referred in the extract cited. The com- 

* Force to Edmund Deberry, February 3, 1837, Force MSS. 

* The statement was entirely erroneous. Hazard's two volumes were 
not issued under a grant from congress, and he made no money out of them. 
See Belknap Papers, Mass. Histl. Soc., " Col.," Ser. V, Vol. Ill, p. 361. 

» Clarke to Cambreling, January 25, 1836, Force MSS. 


pilers sent to the chief objectors a long statement in 
their own justification, but it did no good. The com- 
mittee of the whole voted to strike out the item mak- 
ing the appropriation. On reporting to the house 
there was another debate in which John Quincy Adams, 
Edward Everett, Vanderpoel, and others came to the 
aid of the proposed work, while Cave Johnson and 
Huntsman, both of Tennessee, were the leading crit- 
ics of it. 

Adams's argument for the appropriation is not 
preserved, but a part of Cave Johnson's speech is in 
the "Debates in Congress," and it shows the basis of 
opposition to the work. He attacked Livingston for 
failure to guard the interest of the government in mak- 
ing the contract. The bill authorizing it, said he, 
was most modestly named. No member who voted 
for it had an idea that he was voting for the pub- 
lication of a book larger than "a volume or two of 
moderate size." And who could have expected a 
work so large that it might cost the government a 
million dollars or more ? It is true the publishers 
were willing to limit the number of volumes to twenty, 
costing a little more than $400,000, but this was ex- 
cessive and would never have been granted had con- 
gress realized what it was doing. The most he would 
agree to was that a fair estimate be made of the ex- 
pense Clarke and Force had incurred in their work 
and the sum expended be repaid to them, together 
with a liberal payment for their time and efforts. 


Johnson attacked very properly the practice of 
publishing and distributing books at the expense of 
the government. Since 1826, he said, congress had paid 
for such purposes the sum of $397,994, and it was now 
proposed to add to that sum an even larger amount 
in only one item. This vast expenditure was suffi- 
cient to procure for congress the best library in the 
world. He was willing to vote for the liberal pur- 
chase of books for the library, but he thought that 
congress should cease to be a publisher. He thought 
the sad error into which the national legislature had 
fallen in the contract with Clarke and Force was suffi- 
cient proof of this opinion. 

In attacking the contract Johnson made this state- 
ment : A bill authorizing the publication of the "Doc- 
umentary History" was before congress in June, 
1832, and it said specifically that the price should be 
eight dollars for a volume of eight hundred pages. 
At the time the publishers thought that a fair price ; 
but congress thought otherwise and the bill failed. 
When re-introduced in the next congress the price 
was not named specifically, the only allusion to the 
subject being the statement that the work would 
not cost more a volume than Sparks's "Diplomatic 
History," a book in small volumes, octavo size, of 
about 544 pages, for which the government paid two 
dollars and twenty cents a volume. No one sus- 
pected that under this general description of the cost 
a contract would be made by which an indefinite 


number of folio volumes could be printed at fifteen 
dollars for each volume of eight hundred pages, es- 
pecially since in 1832 the publishers were willing to 
take eight dollars for the same size volume.^ By 
such an argument Johnson sought to show that the 
contract was made through fraud. 

Huntsman was a less able man than Johnson, and 
his speech was colored by deep popular prejudice. 
But at one point it illuminates the subject by showing 
the unavowed opinion many congressmen had of the 
part Clarke took in the transaction. John Quincy 
Adams had said that one of the men to whom the 
contract was given "was long a clerk in this House, 
was a clerk at the time, and that he is advantageously 
known as a gentleman." In reply Huntsman said : 
"Sometimes these clerks become very popular among 
the members ; they pass to and fro amongst them, and 
render many little services. Sometimes, in a con- 
venient anteroom, there may be some cool, whole- 
some water to drink; and the members are invited 
in. The conclusion is, that this clerk is a very clever 
fellow; and by these and other little attentions the 
clerk gets the contract, the members the books, and 
Uncle Sam is taxed with the costs." ^ 

The upshot of the discussion was that the house 
voted, yeas 85, nays 93, against the motion to strike 
out the appropriation. The publishers had won, 

» Debates in Congress, 1835-1836, 3300-3307. 
2 Ibid., 3306 (Vol. XII, part III). 


but their majority was narrow. From that time they 
proceeded for many years with Httle restraint, al- 
though there was much to annoy them. Of Forsyth 
the following opinion was written by Force in this 
controversy: "No matter how widely he may have 
differed from us in opinion ^ [he] has acted with candour 
and fairness in the whole matter." 

4. The Work Published 

In December, 1837, was published the long ex- 
pected first volume. It bore the title, "American 
Archives : consisting of a collection of Authentick 
Records, State Papers, Debates, and Letters and 
Other Notices of Publick Affairs, the Whole Forming 
A Documentary History of the Origin and Progress 
of the North American Colonies ; of the Causes and 
Accomplishment of the American Revolution ; and 
of the Constitution of Government for the United 
States, to the Final Ratification thereof." There were 
to be six series as follows : 1 . From the discovery of 
the continent to 1688 ; 2. From 1688 to 1763 ; 3. From 
1763 to the king's message to parliament, March 7, 
1774 ; 4. From March 7, 1774, to the Declaration of 
Independence, 1776; 5. From the Declaration of 
Independence to the treaty with Great Britain, 
1783 ; and 6. From 1783 to the adoption of the consti- 
tution, 1789. From this statement it is evident that 

» Force to Clarke, January 7, 1836, Force MSS. 


the compilers had yielded nothing to the reiterated 
demand for a short series. 

The volume which appeared in 1837 was the first 
of the fourth series. In a dignified preface were ex- 
plained the purpose and plan of the compilers. "We 
now submit to the people of the United States," it 
began, "the first fruits of our long and arduous la- 
bours. We offer the present volume as a specimen of 
the manner in which our work will be accomplished. 
The undertaking in which we have embarked is, em- 
phatically, a National one : National in its scope and 
object, its end and aim." Other nations had been 
making collections of their original documents at great 
expense and with vast amounts of labor, notably the 
collections made in England under the supervision of 
the Record Commission, and in France under the super- 
vision of the minister of public instruction in accordance 
with the suggestions of M. Guizot. If such collections 
were made abroad, was there not more reason that 
they should be made in the United States while it was 
possible to gather up a very large part of the necessarily 
transient material ere it was destroyed ? 

The volume began with the king's message to par- 
liament, March 7, 1774, in reference to the "disturb- 
ances in America," and contained the proceedings 
thereupon with other proceedings in relation to the 
state of affairs in the colonies, extending to May, 
1775, in all over three hundred folio pages, reprinted 
from British official sources. The rest of the book 


was filled with proceedings of the assemblies and coun- 
cils of individual colonies, the journals of congress, 
copies of the proceedings of committees of correspond- 
ence, and many important letters by individuals. 
The time covered was about fourteen months. The 
same rate of progress was not to be maintained in the 
succeeding volumes. 

The second volume of the fourth series came next, 
October, 1839. It was followed by others in the fol- 
lowing order : the third volume, December, 1840 ; the 
fourth in April, 1843; the fifth in April, 1844; and 
the sixth, completing the series, in March, 1846. 
The five volumes following the first dealt with a period 
of a little more than a year. The first volume of the 
fifth series appeared in April, 1848 ; the second in 
May, 1851 ; and the third in January, 1853. At this 
point publication was suspended. 

Actual publication did not remove the friction with 
congress. The process of getting money out of the 
treasury to pay for work already done proved very 
hard for Clarke and Force. In November, 1839, 
when the material for the second volume was about 
to be printed, Clarke, anxiously observing the trend 
of events, discovered that the item relating to it had 
not been put into the printed general appropriation 
bill, then being prepared for the use of the committee. 
This seemed ominous. Inquiry elicited the fact that 
it had not been sent to the ways and means committee, 
which was still more alarming. Clarke wrote to 


Force: "I don't like this: I wish you would look 
about it. My patience has been so much tried that I 
cannot trust myself to talk with them for fear of in- 
sulting them. You can command your temper better. 
See Stubbs and Forsyth and Woodbury to-day, if 
you get this in time." ^ The following letter, dated 
February 20, 1839, and addressed to Hon. James J. 
McKay, of North Carolina, is an illustration of an- 
other kind of annoyance : 

"Sir : — I received to-day at two o'clock, a paper without address, 
name, or verification, but which is, I presume, a copy of a Resolu- 
tion adopted by the Committee on the PubHc Printing, of which 
you are the Chairman, directing an examination of the Printing and 
Printer's accounts, for the House of Representatives for the 23d 
and 24th congresses. It was left at my office in my absence, this 
forenoon, by Mr. Kincaid, foreman of the Globe oflSce, with a verbal 
request that I would attend at the Treasury, at three o'clock to 
enter upon the examinations. 

"It would give me great pleasure to comply with the request of 
the committee, were it possible to do so : but the great number of 
documents and accounts to be examined, and the numerous calcula- 
tions that must necessarily be made by myself, before I could assent 
to any Report, would, in my opinion, occupy, of the time I could 
devote to such a purpose, at least a month, instead of three days to 
which the time is limited. As I could make no statement under 
the Resolution, but one founded on my own careful and deliberate 
examination, and as the time is inadequate to such an examination, 
I feel myself obliged to decline attempting it. I have the honor 
to be very respectfully, etc." 

In this letter Force shows his nature most charac- 
teristically. Rigid and bold, he was the last man to 

1 Clarke to Force, November 28, 1839, Force MSS. 


leap when the whip of authority cracked. He knew 
his rights under his contract, and no threat of a pre- 
suming chairman of committee could frighten him. 

He was not yet done with McKay. In June, 1840, 
two pointed questions came from the gentleman. The 
first referred to the charge that Force's work was not 
valuable, that he merely printed material from the 
department of state, convenient at hand, and from 
newspapers, books, and other printed sources. This 
charge implied that good faith was not kept with the 
government. McKay asked what portion of the 
"Documentary History" was from printed sources 
and what part was taken from documents in the state 

Force replied at length, urging the wisdom of not 
confining himself to manuscript materials. Much 
of the printed matter was so rare that it was in- 
accessible, and he asserted that this kind of material 
was the most difficult to collect. He thought about 
three-fourths of the papers in the first volume and 
one-half the matter in the second volume were such 
as had previously been printed ; and that not more 
than fifty pages of the first and one-fourth of the 
second were from manuscripts in the state depart- 
ment. The residue of each volume was from manu- 
scripts obtained elsewhere. 

McKay asked a second question, "What is the ex- 
pense for Printing, Paper, and Binding of each of the 
volumes now published.''" Force said: "To this I 


answer, that for fifteen hundred copies of each volume 
it amounts to about $11,000; or $7,33| per copy." 
Force's reply to the chairman of the committee was 
dated June 26, 1840.^ 

In 1843 the affairs of Clarke and Force came to a 
turning-point. Clarke this year gave up connection 
with the enterprise, and John C. Rives, partner of 
F. P. Blair in the publication of the Globe, took his 
place.^ His withdrawal was probably an advantage 
to the enterprise. Friction had appeared between the 
two men, and that may have been the reason of the 
dissolution. In March 1843, we find Force protest- 
ing to an assistant in the office of the clerk of the 
House of Representatives because Clarke had se- 
cured an order for the payment of more than $5000 
for a number of volumes congress had bought for the 
members. It seems that Clarke, then clerk of the House, 
had issued an order to himself and pocketed the entire 
sum. Force gave notice that Clarke did not speak 
for the other partner and that he. Force, would not 
deliver the books in fulfillment of the transaction.^ 

At the same time Force was able to clear up his 
relations with congress. In the general appropria- 
tion bill of March 3, 1843, was introduced a clause to 
pay Clarke and Force $6,826 due for more than two 
years on volume two, and $27,650, the whole cost of 

1 Force MSS. 

2 Force to John C. Rives, March 28, 1843 ; Rives to Force, March 29, 
1843. Force MSS. 

'Force to Robert Johnson, March 16, 1843. Force MSS. 


volume three, published in the preceding December. 
This money was to be paid only on condition that the 
owners should in ten days agree that the whole work 
was not to contain more than twenty volumes at an 
average cost of $20,400 each, and that the secretary 
of state must pass on all the matter that went into the 
series.^ More than once during the past ten years of 
wrangling the compilers had expressed themselves 
as willing to accept these terms. Failure to accept 
them seems to have been due to congress, which was 
unwilling to give the publishers the benefit of a twenty 
volume contract, hoping to deny to them proper com- 
pensation for their efforts, and otherwise to tease 
them into a more disastrous surrender. 

Probably the adjustment of 1843 was in some meas- 
ure due to the fact that both branches of congress 
were whig. Seizing the opportunity Force quickly 
issued volumes four and five and carried six so far 
forward that it was nearly off the press when the 
democratic administration of Polk came into exist- 
ence.^ Buchanan, new head of the state department, 
now controlled the fate of the "American Archives." 
Force sent to him, May 31, 1847, a statement of the 
materials to be included in volume one of the fifth 
series. They were in four chief divisions as follows : 
1. The proceedings, papers, and correspondence of 

* Peters, "U. S. Statutes at Large," V, 641. 

^ Although the title page has the date 1846, there appears at the end of 
the volume the date May 20, 1845, indicating that the printer finished his 
work at that time. 


the continental congress ; 2. The same documents 
of the assemblies, conventions, and councils of safety 
of the several states ; 3. The same documents of the 
British government and of the officers acting for it 
in our revolution; and 4. "Letters and Papers, not 
included in the preceding enumeration, which relate 
to, and are necessary to illustrate the events of the 
period of the Revolution." ^ All these classes of 
papers were to be such as related to the events be- 
tween the adoption of the Declaration of Independ- 
ence and the battle of Long Island, August 27, 1776. 
Buchanan rejected the fourth division. 

Soon followed another Whig administration. To 
John M. Clayton, secretary of state, Force sent, April 
18, 1849, a statement of materials for two volumes, 
second and third of series five. No objection was 
made, and they appeared in 1851 and 1853 respuect- 
ively. The division of matter was the same in the 
statement to Clayton as in that made to Buchanan. 

It would have been better for Force if he had sent 
another volume before the Whigs gave up oflSce. In 
1853 a democratic administration came into power, 
and William L. Marcy became secretary of state. 
February 12, 1855, Force sent him a statement of the 
character of the contents of volumes four and five of 
the fifth series — using the fourfold divisions he had 
used in previous similar statements. Two months 
later he wrote to the secretary as follows : 

1 Force to Buchanan, May 31, 1847, Force MSS. 


"I have the honour to submit, herewith, for your examination, a 
quantity of the Papers collected for the Fourth and Fifth volumes 
of the Fifth Series of the American Archives, having been informed 
that you consider such an examination indispensable." ^ 

The note was short and to the point, as were all of 
Force's communications ; but it brought no answer. 
Finally, on November 1, after six months of silence, 
came a note from the secretary which ran as follows : 

"P. Force, Esq.; I should be pleased to see you in regard to 
the documents which you left with me for examination. Yours 
truly, W. L. Marcy." 

Peter Force has left no written account of what 
happened in the interview that followed; and the ac- 
count left by a friend to whom he talked is so much 
at variance with the preserved documents that it is 
impossible to rely upon it. The essence of the story 
is that Marcy said: "I don't believe in your work, 
sir ! It is of no use to anybody. I never read a page 
of it, and never expect to." ^ No other answer was 
ever given to the persistent compiler by the strong 
tempered Marcy. Force was compelled to realize 
that it was the end of his enterprise. His hope re- 
vived in 1857, when Lewis Cass, a man of literary 
pretensions, became secretary of state. To him was 
sent a statement in the usual form, with the request 
that the materials be approved for the fourth and fifth 
volumes of the fifth series, carrying the story of the 

1 Force to Marcy, Feb. 12 (2) ; April 18, 1855, Force MSS. 

2 G. W. Greene, " Col. Peter Force — the American Annalist " {Mag. of 
Amer. Hist., Vol. II, p. 229). 


revolution to the surrender of Burgoyne. But Cass 
gave no encouragement. The pubHcation of "The 
American Archives" was thus suspended. 

Before condemning Marcy we should consider his 
point of view. He had before him a work that had 
been authorized in a careless moment by congress 
twenty-two years earlier. It was vastly expensive. 
At that time it had cost $228,710, which was 56.1 per 
cent.^ of the $408,000 authorized in the adjustment 
of 1843. It would have been as much as could be ex- 
pected if the work reached the end of 1778, had it 
gone on uninterrupted. If it had proceeded at the 
ordinary rate until it contained the material up to 
1789 it would have cost at least $1,250,000 to com- 
plete the fifth and sixth series, and it is hard to see 
how the first, second, and third could have been pub- 
lished for less than $1,000,000. Such a liberal ex- 
penditure the government at that time could not be 
expected to make. It should be said, also, that the 
assertion that Force overcharged for the volumes is 
supported by the fact that when in 1879 a proposition 
to continue the series was under consideration, the 
public printer estimated that an edition of one thou- 
sand copies, in style identical with Force's volumes, 
could be issued at $4.00 a volume.^ 

^ The estimate is based on the agreed price, 1| cents a page. 

2 Sen. Miscel. Doc. No. 34, 46th cong., 1st ses. The public printer's 
estimates are apt to be too low, but still there was room for ample correc- 
tion without discounting the argument. 


Force was a man of rigid purpose. Having deter- 
mined that the country should have a work in which 
every valuable kind of historical material relating to 
the revolution should be included, he never relaxed 
his purpose to carry through the work on that basis. 
A more practical man would have recognized the 
weight of the objection to reprinting a large amount 
of material from Hansard's debates of the British Par- 
liament, and from the published laws and journals 
of the states and the continental congress. Popular 
criticism, however, erred in trying to analyze Force's 
motives. It assumed that he used these materials 
merely to pad a work which yielded him a good profit. 
On the other hand, he had a dream of a vast and com- 
plete repository of revolutionary history, whose very 
completeness made it necessary to include the papers 
that had been printed, as well as those which were still 
in manuscript. 

A source of trouble for Force was the habit that grew 
up of distributing back volumes to members of con- 
gress who took their seats after the regular distribu- 
tions. As there were from one hundred to one hun- 
dred and fifty new members in each congress and as a 
member once on the list for the distribution received 
all the volumes at the expense of the public as long as 
the work was being published, the cost on this account 
grew every second year by several thousand dollars.^ 

1 Force to B. B. French, March 20, 1845 ; to Robert Johnson, March 16, 
1843; Force to ... . February 22, 1847 (draft). Force MSS. 


It was an insidious form of jobbery ; for what con- 
gress would refuse to make itself the beneficiary of 
the habit, in order to put an end to a bad practice ? 
Marcy may well have felt that this was another reason 
why he himself should assume the responsibility of 
putting an end to the series. 

Force is not to be described as an editor. The mate- 
rial he printed was rarely illuminated with notes. His 
task was to collect and reproduce. He had a faculty 
for detail and was accurately acquainted with the out- 
side of books and documents relating to his subject. 
He seldom ventured into the field of authorship, and 
then in such small attempts that he cannot be called 
a historian. To historical scholarship his chief serv- 
ice was his indefatigable energy in collecting, rather 
than in any constructive use of materials. His 
"American Archives" is nearly forgotten: it is not 
even a model for the many collections that have been 
published since its day. Its arrangement is poor, 
being entirely mechanical. The fourth series has not 
even a good index, a deficiency which, however, was 
remedied in the fifth series. 

Force's work is defective because he did not secure 
and incorporate in it manuscript materials in the 
British public offices. His excuse that he could not get 
permission to make copies is not sufficient. Sparks in 
1828-1829 got such permission, both in London and in 
Paris. Force made applications through agents and 
when refused allowed the matter to lie. By going 


to London himself, he could probably have secured 
his object.^ 

Force was minutely accurate in making reproduc- 
tions of documents, and in this respect he was ahead 
of most men of his time. To Sparks, for example, 
it seemed suflficient to give the text of a letter as he 
thought the writer of it might desire it given. Force 
had the more correct method of exact reproduction, 
leaving the reader to determine in what light imper- 
fections of style should be viewed. The following 
letter to Joseph Gales, Jr., March 12, 1838, will show 
Force's attitude on this point, and give an idea of his 
knowledge of the materials that passed through his 
hands. He wrote : 

"Dear Sir: It gives me great pleasure to furnish the information 
you request, in your note, received this morning. 

"The Journal of the Congress of 1774, was first printed under an 
order of the 22d of October of that year. It has been reprinted 
several times since. The best of the old editions is that printed by 
Robert Aitken, at Philadelphia, in 1777, under a Resolution of 
Congress of the 26th of September, 1776. Folwell's was printed 
from that, and Way & Gideon's from one or the other of these. It 
may be difficult to procure Aitken's; but I suppose Folwell's 
may be obtained in Philadelphia — if not Way & Gideon's can 
certainly be purchased either there or here for a reasonable price — 
four dollars a volume or thereabouts. 

"I think I may venture to say, however, that the best copy of 
the Journal of that Congress will be found in the volume of the 
Documentary History just published. In the preparation of this 
volume I examined the MSS. Journal carefully, and as far as 

1 See Force to Obadiah Rich, Sept. 23, 1834 (2 letters, drafts), and Rich 
to Force, Feb. 20 and May 21, 1835, and Nov. 8, 1838. Force MSS. 


that goes, I followed it closely. Several papers omitted there were 
inserted in the first printed copy; which, besides containing these 
papers, departed from it in some other respects. I have noticed 
and corrected all these variations, and have also supplied some 
other matter which is neither in the MSS. nor in the printed copies.^ 
"You may, therefore, if you can confide in my judgment, refer 
Mr. Reed to the volume I have named, folio 893 to 939. One has, 
I presume, been sent to the Atheneum, at Philadelphia, by the 
Secretary of State. Yours etc. P.F." 

Force's reprint of the journals of the continental 
congress compares favorably with the edition of the 
Library of Congress, under the editorship of Mr. 
Worthington C. Ford and, later, Mr. Gailliard Hunt. 
In fact, Mr. Ford, in the preface of volume II pays 
this excellent tribute to our compiler: "The larger 
number of the surviving papers [of the continental 
congress] are printed in Peter Force's 'American 
Archives,' and it is safe to assume that if he did not 
include a letter or a report in that monumental com- 
pilation, it was not to be found in the Papers of the 
Continental Congress in his day." ^ 

5. Peter Force as a Collector 

In collecting the vast mass of copies of documents 
Force came into contact with the men most active in 
the field of historical collecting and writing. His 

^ Force MSS. The text gives no intimation of what papers are "sup- 
plied." Two foot-notes are given, without indication of the sources, though 
one is evidently from a Philadelphia newspaper of contemporary date. — 
J. S. B. 

^ Journals of the Continental Congress, Vol. II, p. 5. 


correspondence affords us an interesting view of the 
state of research in his time ; and to know that cannot 
fail to be of real service to American historical 
students of this or any future time. There was 
hardly a man in the country then engaged in research 
who did not write to Peter Force. Not only the great 
collectors and the minor historians, but such impor- 
tant major writers as Jared Sparks and George Ban- 
croft are thus revealed in their intimate labors. Most 
pertinent of all in this place is the view we have of 
Force's own efforts as collector. 

"I first proposed the American Archives, and drew 
up the plan of the work, in 1822. Since January, 
1830, my time has been almost wholly occupied in col- 
lecting materials for it, and preparing them for the 
press. The work is the result of my own labour, 
and the copyright belongs to myself alone." ^ Thus 
wrote Colonel Force in 1848. Collecting materials 
meant buying books, newspapers, and pamphlets as 
well as copying manuscripts. Of the first class he 
had a considerable collection when he formed the 
partnership with Clarke. He soon became known 
to the dealers in second-hand books as a good cus- 
tomer, and with some of the large dealers in the chief 
cities he was on the basis of a preferential customer, 
buying largely when he was financially able. The 
invoices preserved with his papers show that his pur- 
chases were not exclusively American, as the following 

1 Force to Thomas J. Campbell. August 19, 1848, Force MSS. 


items, taken at random, but successively, will show : 
"Appianus, $4.50; Le Blanc, $3.75; Proposals for 
a Q. Settlement in Penn., $5.25; Holyoke, $4.50; 
Tryal of Pyrates, $5.00; Agreement between Penn 
and Baltimore, $3.12; Franciscans, $5.25; Ptolemy, 
$18.37; Life of Whitefield, $1.62; 3 Tracts at 75 cts., 
$2.25 ; Zeno, $3.62." A man who wedged in Ptolemy 
between the Franciscans and the Life of the great 
preacher of Methodism was certainly a man of broad 

The following letter reveals his relations with the 
book dealers, and, incidentally, shows his interest in 
books on the art of printing : 

"Dear Sir: — I am gratified to learn from yours of the 8th in- 
stant you can furnish all the books ordered in mine of the sixth. 
Annexed is an additional order. I thank you for suggesting Dibdin, 
but Arres [ ?] must serve me for the present. I have several works 
on the history of Printing, and a few early printed Books. I wish 
to add to them and would order Pliny (no. 2170) but I think the 
price too high. I have not added Hakluyt to the list solely from 
an apprehension that I may find the Bill without it inconveniently 
large. Has your Discovery of America by the Welch been pub- 
lished ? Respectfully etc." ^ 

Again Force wrote: 

"I have received your two letters. I will attend to the nomina- 
tion of the gentlemen you named for Corresponding Members of 
the Institute. There has been no meeting since, and probably 
there will be none before November. Mr. Broadhead called upon, 

1 Force to John R. Bartlett, of New York, July 9, 1776 [sic]. Bartlett 
was a member of the firm of Bartlett and Welford, booksellers. He was the 
author of " Bibliotheca Americana " and other bibliographical works. 


and spent an hour or so with me. You know what has been done 
about the appointment of secretary. What wUl be done hereafter 
it is impossible to conjecture. Mr. Marsh should have been one of 
the Regents. 

"I was much mortified with my seeming want of courtesy to Mr. 
Ludewig. I could not intentionally omit to thank him for his kind- 
ness to myself, or for his extremely well executed Book, for which he 
is entitled to the thanks of all who desire to read or to study 
the History of this country. Enclosed are your two Lists. The 
twenty-eight books I have marked you will please send me. I have, 
just now, occasion for Herrera, Barcia, Pigafetta, Cardenas, Nava- 
rete, De Laet, and HoUingshed. Will you return the lists with the 
Books .?"! 

Force was an omnivorous reader, and it is probable 
that he desired these books for his personal use. He 
was not at that time engaged in any investigation that 
would have required works of such varying character 
as Holinshed and Navarete. 

To Hermann E. Ludewig, mentioned in the letter 
above, he wrote in 1857 as follows : 

"You are mistaken, my dear sir, in supposing that nobody takes 
an interest in your American bibliographical researches. All who 
take an interest in American history must acknowledge the value 
of your Book, and thank you for the industry, perseverance, and 
especially the ability, you have shown in the preparation of it. 
It was unfair to throw the expense of publication on one who had 

1 Force to John R. Bartlett, September 11, 1846, Force MSS. The 
"Broadhead" mentioned here was probably J. R. Brodhead, of New York; 
and the position mentioned seems to have been the secretaryship of the 
Smithsonian Institution. Herman E. Ludewig was a Saxon bibliographer 
who arrived in America in 1844. HepubHshed his "Literature of American 
Local History " in 1846 at his own expense. The edition was given away by 
the author, who received acknowledgments from only thirty of the recipients. 


voluntarily incurred the expense of preparing it for the press. For 
a second edition, with your additions, it must be arranged other- 
wise. I am sure you could make some additions here, where I 
should be glad to see you at any time, while I hope for the pleasure 
of meeting you in New York the coming summer. I wish I lived 
nearer our friend Gowans, or rather, I wish he lived nearer me, 
(for I cannot change my location). I never visit his collection 
without meeting with something desirable." ' 

Among other correspondents were Lyman C. 
Draper, Charles Deane, Henry Onderdonck, J. B. 
Moore, Samuel G. Drake, George Livermore, William 
B. Reed, and Buckingham Smith, all men of note in 
some special field of history. To most of these 
men Force was an object of high consideration, and 
a source from which came help of many kinds. Ly- 
man C. Draper wrote in 1847 — then in his thirty- 
third year — "Upwards of a year since I took the 
liberty of sending you a printed circular explaining 
my aims and my historical collections. Limited and 
unimportant as they are, compared with your great 
researches and achievements, I yet hope, in my humble 
way, to effect something for the biographical literature 
of our country." ^ 

John H. Wheeler, author of an indifferent history 
of North Carolina, wrote as follows in acknowledg- 
ment of the aid he had received: "You will receive 
by this mail, the first form of my History of North 
Carolina. Your god-child, for whom at the baptismal 

1 From an undated draft in reply to Ludewig's letter of Oct. 6, 1857. 
Force MSS. 2 September 20, 1847. Force MSS. 


font you are made to stand, is before you. I fear al- 
most that you will disown the ungainly bantling. 
But ' it must be so, Plato ' ; and perhaps after all it 
may do, as it is 'only for Buncombe' that the work is 
written. Let me hear from you by return mail, and 
your opinion as to the typography ; and your sugges- 
tions will be respectfully heeded." In another letter 
Wheeler speaks of Force, Bancroft, and Governor 
Swain as " having stood at the fount as sponsors for 
my bantling." ^ 

From Edward D. Ingraham, of Philadelphia, came 
a letter which must have startled the collector. It 
was nothing more nor less than a request for the loan 
of a rare copy of Archibald Loudon's "Indian Narra- 
tive," ^ which a "client of mine" wished to publish in 
a "superior edition." The writer gave assurance that 
the book would be returned if the new edition was not 
published. Force said in reply: "I will lend you 
Loudon with great pleasure to be returned to me safe 
and sound, in the same condition it now is ; but there 
is an awful squinting in your 'unless,' etc. that alarms 
me. A copy of a new edition, no matter how supe- 
rior, would not replace this old one on my shelves. 
Will not a MS copy serve to print from.f* I would 
rather make one than have my Book destroyed ; and 
I would much rather copy it twice than disoblige you, 

» July 3 and September 13, 1851. Force MSS. 

2 Loudon, Archibald, " Interesting Narratives of Outrages Committed 
by the Indians in their Wars on White People," 2 vols., Carlisle [Pa.], 


to whom I am indebted for so many favours." ^ In- 
graham was a man of education, a lawyer of ability, 
and a bibliophile. It is, therefore, amazing that he 
should have thought a rare book, mutilated in the 
hands of the printers, could be replaced by a copy 
from a new edition. 

Of all the collectors with whom Force came into 
contact the most notable was Henry Stevens, second 
of the name, probably the prince of Americans who 
were accustomed to collect and dispose of old Ameri- 
can books, pamphlets, and manuscripts. Stevens's 
father, likewise called Henry, was himself a collector. 
He lived in Barnet, Vermont, and made a thorough 
search of Vermont garrets for material on the history 
of the state. His researches brought together the 
greatest treasury of Vermont history that has been 
seen in one place. Left in the state house in Mont- 
pelier, it suffered severely in a fire which destroyed 
the building in 1857. Force bought duplicates from 
him and a friendship existed between the two men. 
On a certain Christmas day Stevens wrote: "I have 
been thinking about going to Washington this winter, 
but how to manage to get there, as yet I have not de- 
termined. If I could sell you a few hundred dollars 
worth of old manuscripts, from four to six hundred 
volumes of newspapers, a few hundred pamphlets for 
a reasonable reward over and above expenses I might 
be induced to make you one more visit. Come, 

^ Force to E. D. Ingraham, December 13, 1850. Force MSS. 


give me what may be termed solid comfort. I will 
pack up and clear out for Washington. Write me 
soon after you receive this, so that I can look about 
and consider what is for the best." ^ Stevens, senior, 
was possessed of average Vermont shrewdness, sharp- 
ened by years of ferreting in garrets, and he could not 
restrain its working, in spite of his genuine admiration 
for Force. 

His son, Henry Stevens, Junior, was to be a greater 
man than the collector of Barnet ; and it was Force 
who first gave him an opportunity to develop his 
talents. In 1843 the young man was a senior at Yale, 
facing financial diflSculties which threatened to in- 
terrupt his stay at the college. By some means, pos- 
sibly through his father, he became acquainted with 
Force and made arrangements to copy manuscripts 
for him. The young collegian had his father's faculty 
of nosing out rare materials, and Force trusted to him 
to select what was valuable. Students were employed 
to do the actual copying, and through the spring many 
valuable parcels were sent to Washington. In the 
autumn of 1843 Stevens entered the Harvard law 
school. He was in debt to a New Haven bank, and 
Professor Kingsley had become his security. There 
was, therefore, more reason than ever that he should 
earn money by copying. To his earnest plea that he 
should go on. Force at first refused on the ground 
that he was himself in need of money. But later he 

1 December 25, 1851. Force MSS. 


relented and authorized Stevens to furnish copied 
manuscripts to the amount of $350, the sum for which 
the young man was in debt.^ 

The money was not applied to the debt, and Pro- 
fessor Kingsley wrote in deep concern to Force, say- 
ing that Stevens gave as the excuse for failure to pay 
that Force owed him money for copying, and asking 
that Force would accept a draft for four hundred and 
fifteen dollars. To this request, so badly based, Force 
gave a polite refusal. To Stevens he sent the amount 
then due, $253.76, saying that he had informed Kings- 
ley of the fact, and directing Stevens to cease copy- 
ing. ^ Force was the soul of honesty, and loose meth- 
ods of business were very distasteful to him. But 
the two men were mutually necessary to one another, 
and the estrangement did not last long. A year 
later Stevens was collecting manuscripts and send- 
ing books. The following letter written to him will 
cast interesting light on the methods of collecting 
in general, as well as illustrate the personal habits 
of the writer of it : 

"Dear Sir : I have just received by the express yours of the 13th 
with the catalogue. It came in excellent time. I was about leav- 
ing for Boston to-morrow (at great inconvenience to my business) to 
attend the sale. If you will attend and buy for me you will do 
me a great favour. I want the books I have marked. Get them as 
cheap as you can, but buy all that do not sell at extravagant prices. 

1 Force to H. Stevens, Jr., Dec. 27, 1843. Force MSS. 

2 Force to H. Stevens, Jr., Feb. 8, 1844, to J. L. Kingsley, Feb. 8, 1844, 
Kingsley to Force, Jan. 29, 1844. Force MSS. 


Of course I except such as you want for yourself. The auctioneers 
do not know me; but I suppose they will be satisfied if I remit 
immediately on receiving a Bill, and before any Books are sent, the 
balance for whatever amount you buy for me, above the two 
hundred dollars I now enclose. Instead of returning the catalogue, 
I annex the numbers I desire of the first day's sale. To-morrow I 
will send you the 2nd and 3rd Days. Your draft will be attended 
to : it has not yet been presented. I very much wish to procure 
full sets of the old copies of all the Colony Laws, and will take any 
you can gather for me. If you can get me a copy of Ingersoll's 
Letters I beg you to send it. Respectfully, etc." ^ 

Stevens had previously called Force's attention to 
certain manuscripts to be included in the sale, and 
he seems to have suggested that George Bancroft, 
then in Boston, be asked to look over them and advise 
him, Stevens, as to their value. In reply Force said : 

" With regard to the MSS, I am unable to give directions. A mere 
transcript, no matter how neatly written, without evidence of its 
authenticity, is of no value to me. I am unwilling to trouble Mr. 
Bancroft, but may, perhaps, write him about them. It is proper 
to say, I consider this a matter of business and that I expect to 
pay you a commission for your trouble." ^ 

One can see something of the spirit of treasure-hunt- 
ing that lent a glamour to the life of a collector in the 
suggestion conveyed by Stevens in the following words, 
the allusion being to the sale above mentioned: "I 
think there will be no long pursed competitors in the 
field. The Harvard Library has already many of the 
works. Sparks has gone to Halifax, and all the anti- 

1 Force to Stevens, July 19, 1844. Force MSS. 

2 Force to H. Stevens, July 20, 1844. Force MSS. 


quarians of the Law School and college are off. Bartlett 
and Welford's agent will probably be the only high 
bidder." The sale went off favorably, Force securing 
$485.57 worth of the books. Stevens gives us a 
glimpse of still another side of book collecting in the 
following : "I shall have a tale to tell you of the wonder- 
ful conduct of our George B to whom you wrote, 

and who, I believe, did his best to manoeuvre me out of 
some of the best of the books, particularly no. 240." ^ 
By this time Stevens had drifted far into the current 
of the collector's life. Law, which he still called his 
dearest pursuit, was fast receding into the distance. 
From Boston he made many journeys into the interior, 
buying books freely and selling them where he could 
find purchasers. When he accumulated a quantity 
that he could not sell privately he placed them with an 
auctioneer. He was an ardent buyer and was apt 
to purchase rashly. The result was that he often 
lost money. In the spring of 1845, while embar- 
rassed, he got Force to accept a draft on an auction 
house in Boston, claiming that the house owed him 
several hundred dollars. The draft was drawn in 
favor of a Washington man, indorsed by Force, and 
sent to Boston for collection, where it was promptly 
protested. Force waited two weeks in daily expectation 
of a letter from the agent. T\Tien none came he wrote 
him as follows: "I paid Mr. Morrison, with the ex- 

1 Stevens to Force, July 15 and 27, 1844. Force MSS. "George B— " 
was Bancroft. 


penses on the draft, $63.75, and expected you would 
immediately replace the money, without being re- 
minded of the necessity of your doing so. Your silence 
compels me to request you will send me the amount, 
forthwith. At the same time I take the liberty to 
advise you, never hereafter, under any circumstances, 
to resort again to such an expedient to raise money. 
You cannot succeed in it without the loss of friends and 
of character." ^ 

This reproof brought a prompt explanation. The 
draft was issued, said Stevens, in the faith that he had 
funds enough to meet it at the auctioneers'. It was 
protested during his absence from Boston. When he 
returned he learned of the occurrence, went to the 
auctioneers, and was told that his balance was eighty- 
one cents. In despair he ran to the bank, only to 
learn that the protested draft had gone back to Wash- 
ington. To his expressions of grief the bank clerk 
gave him the consoling assurance that he would soon 
have ample opportunity to pay. Stevens wrote very 
contritely, accused himself of lack of business knowl- 
edge, and made a strong appeal to the benevolence of 
his patron. "I cannot bear the idea," he said, "that 
you, to whom I am so much indebted for my past 
successes, and for the facilities afforded me in my 
favorite study, should have occasion to withhold the 
confidence once reposed in me ; for I am free to confess 
that to you, more than to all others, except my kind 

1 Force to Stevens, April 8, 1845. Force MSS. 


father, do I owe my education, I have often boasted 
of you as a friend, and hope by my actions hereafter to 
merit the same appellation." 

The hard-hearted patron was not appeased. He 
began to examine his invoices of books more carefully 
than formerly, and the conclusions he reached prompted 
him to write in the following strain : 

"When I proposed to you last summer to collect books for me, 
I agreed to pay you a fair price (without regard to their cost to you) 
for what you might gather of such as could not be procured in the 
regular way of purchasing, and were without an ascertained value ; 
but it was expressly understood that this arrangement did not 
include such as were found in bookstores or on sale Catalogues with 
fixed prices : on such I was to pay you a commission merely. I 
advanced you money and took the Books you offered me, without 
scrutiny, at your own prices. On the present occasion I have 
looked into it. 

"Of the whole sent me on the 18th instant, there is not more 
than one for which I will give what you ask. The prices through- 
out are extravagant. The two lots, of 144 for 75 cents each, and 
82 for one dollar each, I would not take in the lump, as you say you 
expect me to do, at the average price of 25 cents each. Of those 
sent on the 5th I have found some on the catalogues from which I 
have no doubt you ordered. For instance, I find the price of Lettres 
Edifiante [sic], for which you charge [$]27.00 is 26 shillings; 
Norrici [?], $3.75, is four shillings; Mirror of Cruelty, $4.50, is ten 
shillings ; Fernandez Relation, $10.00, is ten shillings and sixpence : 
Gage, $5.75, is four shillings and sixpence; and so of others. The 
catalogue price of the five I have named is fifty-five shillings, and 
you have charged me for them fifty-six dollars ! The Bookseller's 
commission for importing the same books would not exceed ten 
per cent. I find others in the same bill, on Towne's Catalogue, 
which you probably purchased of Mr. Morrison, in this city, charged 
at more than four times his price. I now write to inquire if you 


adhere to the prices you have fixed in your Bills; if you do, write 
me, at once, and I will return you the Books immediately. Re- 
spectfully &c." 

To this protest Stevens replied that he had charged 
the same prices that Harvard College, Messrs. Dowse, 
C. Dean, Lawrence, Livermore, Chapin, Crownin- 
shield, Norton, and Bowditch paid him. But he added : 
"I am convinced I have charged you, in the aggregate 
extravagant prices"; and he proposed that Force 
should deduct twenty per cent, on one and twenty-five 
per cent, on another of the bills complained of, and send 
back all the books he did not wish at these reductions.^ 

At this time the course of Henry Stevens, Jr., in 
America was nearly run. He had, as he said in the 
letter just cited, established a trade with the wealthy 
Boston collectors; and he had sold to them at liberal 
profits. He was about to be translated to a wider 
sphere of activity. Some of his rich patrons, among 
them Messrs. John Carter Brown, of Providence, 
Governor Slade, of Vermont, and J. R. Brodhead, of 
New York, sent him to London to search the market 
for rare Americana. Before this time Obadiah Rich, 
of London, had sold many of the books ordered by 
Americans ; and now and then some New York or 
Boston dealer would go to England and run through the 
stalls to see what he could find. It was in the latter 

1 For this correspondence see Stevens to Force, April 12, 1845, Force 
to Stevens, April 27, 1845, and Stevens' reply. May 4, 1845. Force 



capacity that Stevens reached London. He examined 
the London shops thoroughly, visited the out-of-town 
booksellers, and finally met Panizzi, the head of the 
British Museum, who was so impressed with him that he 
gave him an order to purchase books on America for that 
great library.^ It was an unlimited order, and carried 
with it admission to every part of the Museum. Rich 
was completely overshadowed by the young American, 
and the other booksellers were in despair. Bartlett, 
of New York, wrote to Force in these words: "Soon 
after my return from Washington our Mr. Welford 
went to London. He writes me that our friend Hy. 
Stevens is the great monopolist of American books in 
London. He not only buys everything of value, 
but prevents all the respectable dealers from selling 
to others. . . . The fact is, he has some rich cus- 
tomers in Boston and Providence, and I understand 
that he makes them pay high prices. He is also em- 
ployed at the British Museum, and has free access to 
every part of the institution. Mr. Welford has been in 
London more than three months and has not been able 
to send me a single book on America of variety or 
value." ^ 

The prosperity of the young American did not wipe 
out immediately the resentment Force had felt in 1845. 

^ It was in this year, 1845, that Panizzi made his most celebrated report 
on the reorganization of the library of the British Museum. He pointed 
out the deficiencies in the collection of printed books, and parliament was 
led to vote £10,000 annually to keep up the collection. 

2 Bartlett to Force, July 8, 184G. Force MSS. 


The short business letters Stevens wrote seem to have 
remained unanswered. It was not until 1848 that 
correspondence was resumed between the two men. 
In 1851 the last trace of harshness was gone, as we may 
learn from the letter that follows. Force wrote : 

"I wrote you last week by Mr. Cunningham, who is on his way 
to England, to see the Elephant. I hope you will give him the 
benefit of some of your London experience : it will be of great value 
to him. I have had much to do with old England for some months 
past, in the way of 'Contributions' to the great Industrial Exhibi- 
tion, and I have been urged to present myself to the Royal Com- 
missioners in London, as one of the 'natural products ' of America. 
I had a strong desire, too, to go ; not altogether to visit the Crystal 
Palace, (though I have no doubt that will be worth looking at) but 
to learn something certain about the quantity and accessibility of 
the papers relating to America, preserved in the State Paper office, 
and other depositories about the Metropolis. I supposed that in 
three or four months a general examination might be made ; but 
I learn from an article in the March number of the Gentleman's 
Magazine, they are guarded by such a fearful array of bars, and 
fees, and favours of office, that they must be totally inaccessible to 
one who desires to obtain a general knowledge of what there is 
there that he wants. There is at least one black spot of the Dark 
Ages of Albion not yet rubbed out. So, I shall not visit Mr. John 
Bull this year. . . . 

"Brunet^ gives four early editions of Froissart's Chronicles. 
The 1st without date; 2d, 1505; 3d, 1518; and 4th, 1530. All 
these editions, if they exist, should be in the British Museum.^ You 
will much oblige me by making an examination and a comparison 
of the first volume of each edition, and when you write let me 
know in what respect they severally differ. It would tax your time 

^ Jacques-Charles Brunei, a celebrated French bibliographer. 
" The publication of the British Museum catalogue began in 1841, when 
the letter A was published. It was not carried further until 1881. 


too much, or I would ask you for a similar examination and report 
on each of the volumes. I don't believe in Brunet's four editions." ^ 

These extracts from Force's letters give us a view 
of his activity as a collector. Although he read con- 
stantly and knew a great deal about miscellaneous 
things, he can hardly be called a great scholar in 
history. In fact, he lacked early educational advan- 
tages, and the effect is seen in all he did. As his 
friends said to him in 1851, he was a natural product of 
America. But nature gave him a genius for historical 
collecting, a gift which would undoubtedly have been 
expanded into larger proportions, if he had been so 
fortunate in his early life as to have enjoyed the oppor- 
tunities of a sound and liberal education. 

6. Other Activities of Peter Force 

One of the outcomes of his collecting of rare Ameri- 
cana was the four volumes of " Tracts and other Papers 
relating to the Origin, Settlement, and Progress of the 
Colonies in North America." The first appeared in 
1836, the second in 1838, the third in 1844, and the 
fourth in 1846. In an "Advertisement" the compiler 
explained that he had experienced much difficulty in 
collecting the early pamphlets and tracts on the colo- 
nies. Of the vast number that were issued only a few 
had survived the waste of time, and these few were in 
libraries connected with public institutions. It was 
proposed, therefore, to reprint such tracts as were of 

» Force to Stevens, April 5, 1851. Force MSS. 


most value and to make them accessible to a larger 
number of readers than could otherwise see them. 
Of the thirteen numbers in the first volume two had 
not been printed before that and two others were now 
for the first time published in connected form. 

Force's "Tracts" have long been considered an 
indispensable work among the collections of early 
Americana, although they are somewhat superseded 
in recent times by the inclusions of most of the tracts 
in various local or modern collections. The preparation 
was to Force a labor of love. He was not a rich 
man and was frequently in straitened circumstances. 
It was, therefore, not an easy thing to get out the 
volumes. He said in this connection: "Whenever I 
found a little more money in my purse than I absolutely 
needed, I printed a volume of Tracts." ^ They were 
brought out without notes or other editorial amplifica- 

In his old age Force became interested in Arctic 
exploration and the invention of printing ; and he was 
one of the many men of his day who tried to solve the 
fascinating puzzle of the authorship of Junius' letters. 
In 1852 he published a pamphlet in defense of the 
claims of the American expedition that went out in 
search for Sir John Franklin and his party. The title 
was "Grinnell Land, Remarks on the English Maps of 
Arctic Discoveries in 1850 and 1851." Controversy 

^ Spofford, A. R., "Life and Labors of Peter Force," in Records of the 
Columbia Historical Societj, Vol. II, p. 4. 


followed, and the next year he published a second 
pamphlet called a "Supplement to Grinnell Land." 
In a controversy Force was likely to speak with 
biting words, but he was always patriotic. In 1856 
he published in the Smithsonian Contributions to 
Knowledge a treatise called " Record of Auroral Phe- 
nomena observed in the higher Northern Latitudes." 
His fervent desire to defend his country's history led 
him in 1855 to publish a pamphlet in reply to some of 
Lord Mahon's strictures on the outbreak of our revo- 
lution. It was called "The Declaration of Independ- 
ence, or Notes on Lord Mahon's History of the Ameri- 
can Declaration of Independence." 

Force is also remembered for other services to his- 
torical literature. He discovered the proclamation of 
Governor Josiah Martin of North Carolina, in which 
mention was made of certain treasonable resolutions 
passed in Mecklenburg County. This proclamation 
had been taken as supporting evidence by those who 
believed in the twentieth-of-May "declaration." But 
searching in the contemporary newspapers Force dis- 
covered in the Massachusetts Spy, July 12, 1775, an 
abbreviated copy of the resolutions passed in Mecklen- 
burg County, May 31, 1775. He published them in the 
National Intelligencer, December 18, 1838, pointing out 
that they answered fully the resolutions to which Gov- 
ernor Martin alluded in his proclamation. Later on, 
these resolutions were discovered in other newspapers, 
and more diligent research has established that it was 


to them that the governor referred, and, in fact, that 
the so-called " twentieth-of -May resolutions" never ex- 
isted in fact, but were only a figment of the imagina- 
tion.^ Force's discoveries in connection with the con- 
troversy were but incidental to his long and minute 
examination of the sources of revolutionary history, but 
they attest the care with which he pursued his tasks. ^ 

7. The Last Years of Activity 

After the secretary of state, William L. Marcy, 
refused to accept for publication the material for the 
tenth volume of the "American Archives," Force's life 
passed into a period of disappointment and sorrow. 
It was the failure of the great scheme on which his best 

1 For a full discussion of this subject see Hoyt, "The Mecklenburg Dec- 
laration of Independence." Force's share is mentioned on pages 16-17. 

2 Force seems to have believed the resolutions of May 31, 1775, were 
really a declaration of independence. In his statement to McKay's com- 
mittee, June 26, 1840, he said, while arguing that it was proper to include 
in the "Archives" matter which had once been in print: "The contro- 
versy about the Mecklenburgh Resolutions, begun more than ten years 
since, is well known. During all that time, notwithstanding the earnest- 
ness of research and investigation of the parties engaged in that controversy, 
no written or printed contemporaneous evidence was discovered, either to 
aflSrm or disprove the claim of North Carolina to the first declaration of a 
separation from Great Britain. Yet such evidence exists, and it is contained 
in a Paper aflSrming the fact. This is a printed paper. Who will say, that 
because it was printed sixty-five years ago, it is not now entitled to a place 
in the Archives of the Country; but that after having been buried in 
oblivion for more than half a century, it should be left there to perish for- 
ever ? " McKay was from North Carolina, and the allusion to the Mecklen- 
burg resolutions was probably a piece of guile, but it can hardly be believed 
that Force would have affected a belief in the resolutions which he did not 
feel. The statement from which the quotation is taken is in the Force MSS. 


hopes were staked. Never a man of strong social 
qualities, he retired into his home life and surrendered 
himself to the impulses of a book-loving recluse. 
George Bancroft in his later years lived in Washington, 
the center of a prominent group of prominent men. 
To a society that was amply endowed with oflBcial 
distinction he added the much desired finish of literary 
reputation. Senators, cabinet members, ministers from 
European courts, and the president himself were pleased 
to entertain him and be entertained by him. To 
support this high state he had ample means, as well as 
the fondness for high social dignity. But Force had 
neither the money nor the taste for such a life. His 
home was in a roomy old house at the corner of D and 
Twelfth streets. Northwest, looking over Pennsylvania 
Avenue. The adjoining house was the shelter for his 
library and behind the two was a large garden in which 
he exhausted his ingenuity to provide areas for flowers, 
lawn, and trees. One particular corner contained 
shrubs and trees intermingled and was known as his 
"wilderness." Love of flowers is often a characteristic 
of the scholar who retires from the observation of the 
world, and it has been peculiarly present in our Ameri- 
can historians. Bancroft, Parkman, and Prescott 
were devoted to gardening ; the first had a rose named 
for him and the second originated several new varieties 
of plants, the most noted being the Lilium Parkmanni, 
to which his name was given. An ugly brick building 
now stands where Force's garden used to be. 


In his library, Force was ever the serious student and 
devotee of learning. To curious persons who sought 
to see one of the reputed wise men of the city he was 
never at home. But to students seeking his aid, and 
to book-lovers like himself he was the soul of hospi- 
tality. By eight o'clock in the morning he was at his 
table "collating and writing amid heaps of historical 
lore." Severe simplicity marked his environment, 
partly because such was his fancy, and partly because 
he was not able to afford rich surroundings. "More 
than once," he said, "did I hesitate between a barrel of 
flour and a rare book, but the book always got the 
upper hand." Dr. Spofford, the librarian of congress, 
often visited him and together the two men went 
through the treasures of the library. The following 
picture of the seven ample rooms in which the col- 
lection was crowded is given to us by Dr. Spofford : 

"No luxurious library appointments, no glazed bookcases of 
walnut or mahogany, no easy chairs inviting to soft repose or slum- 
ber were there ; but only plain, rough pine shelves and pine tables, 
heaped and piled with books, pamphlets, and journals, which over- 
flowed seven spacious rooms and littered the floors. Among them 
moved familiarly two or more cats and a favorite old dog, for the 
lonely scholar was fond of pets, as he also was of children. He had 
near bits of bread or broken meat or a saucer of milk to feed his 
favorites in the intervals of his work. Clad in a loose woolen 
wrapper or dressing-gown, the sage looked up from his books with 
a placid smile of greeting, for (like that of many men of leonine 
and somber aspect) his smile was of singular sweetness." ^ 

> Spofford, A. R., " Life and Labors of Peter Force," Records of the 
Columbia Historical Society, Vol. II, p. 8. 


In physical appearance Force was tall and erect. 
Curling hair covered his large head even to his old age. 
His carriage was firm and dignified, as became the 
military man. He wore well the rank to which he was 
advanced in the militia of the District of Columbia. 
This marked presence was probably one of the things 
that commended him to the voters and resulted in his 
election to the mayoralty of Washington. Having 
resided in the city from its early years, he was well 
known on the streets, where the citizens courteously 
saluted as he took his daily walks, and where visitors 
turned to remark his striking figure. Those who saw 
were apt to remember him long. 

To his friends his conduct was gentle and helpful. 
"His manners," said Dr. Spoflord, "were gravely 
courteous and simple, his conversation deliberate 
rather than fluent, his tones modulated and low. His 
talk was often enlivened by an undercurrent of genial 
humor. Without egotism or pretension, he was ever 
ready to impart to inquirers from his full stores of 
wisdom and experience, while cherishing a wholesome 
horror of pretenders and of bores." ^ This warm 
nature beneath a stern exterior was not apparent to the 
men who dealt with him in a business way. A more 
expansive manner to strangers would have enabled him 
to avoid some of the disappointments that overtook his 
hopes. He who would succeed in a world of politicians 

^ Spofford, A. R., "Life and Labors of Peter Force," Records oj the 
Columbia Historical Society, Vol. H, p. 9. 


must have address and open sympathy for casual as 
well as for real friends. 

Colonel Force lived in happy family relations. 
Seven children of his household came to maturity, two 
dying young. One of them, Manning Ferguson Force, 
a graduate of Harvard in 1845, and of the law school in 
1848, became a historian of note in his day. He 
wrote several books on the Civil War, among them 
"From Fort Henry to Corinth," in Scribners' "Cam- 
paigns of the Civil War." He lived in Ohio, and was 
elected a corresponding member of the Massachusetts 
Historical Society. He served in the Civil War as 
an officer of volunteers and reached the rank of briga- 

As Peter Force approached an advanced age, he 
became concerned about the fate of his collection. He 
had long thought that it might be bought by the gov- 
ernment and kept together as a great national collection 
of historical lore ; but the suspension of the publication 
of the "Archives" and his consequent strained relations 
with the officials left little encouragement for his hopes. 
During the civil war he could not expect that a govern- 
ment straining every nerve to raise funds for the 
expenses of that struggle would devote a portion of its 
resources to book buying. 

In 1865 efforts were made to secure the collection for 
the New York Historical Society. Force, as an old 
New Yorker, was willing to sell to the society, and the 
terms agreed upon were : 1. The collection to be kept 


together and known as the "Force Library"; 2. The 
price paid to be $100,000; and 3. Force himself to 
subscribe $10,000 toward the sum. George H. Moore, 
librarian of the society, set about the task of raising the 
remainder, $90,000. At the end of more than six 
months he had to report that he could not raise the 
money, and the negotiations came to an end.^ 

Then the matter was again taken up by persons who 
wished to keep the Hbrary in Washington. A bill was 
now carried through congress, March 2, 1867, appro- 
priating $100,000 for the collection, and the library 
with its manuscripts was transferred to the library of 
congress.^ The transaction was largely due to the 
efforts of Dr. Ainsworth R. Spofford, librarian of 
congress. He made a report on the character of the 
contents of the collection, dividing the materials into 
the following seven classes : 

1. Printed books of several categories, including 
early voyages, statutes, documents, and other materials 
relating to America ; and books in Spanish, French, 
and German languages bearing on the general or special 
fields. It was, said Dr. Spofford, the largest private 
collection ever made in its field. In all there were 
22,529 printed volumes. 

2. Extensive files of early American newspapers, 
dating from 1735 to 1800, and relating especially 

1 Force to Moore, May 29, 1865 ; Moore to Force, May 20, October 5, 
and December 11, 1865. Force MSS. 

2 U. S. Statutes at Large, Vol. XIV, p. 464. 


to Massachusetts, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New 

3. Pamphlets in the same field, in all about 40,000. 
How valuable these pamphlets were may be seen from 
the fact that the library of congress then had only 

4. Maps and atlases referring to American history, 
many of them describing events of the revolutionary 

5. Incunabula, collections of early specimens of the 
art of printing, many of them examples from the work 
of the most notable printers. 

6. Autographs and miscellaneous manuscripts, relat- 
ing chiefly to the revolutionary period, among them 
many letters from American generals. 

7. Transcripts, materials collected and prepared for 
publication in the Archives. Some of them represented 
documents that had been destroyed after these copies 
were made. These transcripts remain a promising un- 
worked field of research to this day. 

It was in the spring of 1867 that the collection was 
moved to the capitol, which then held the library of 
congress. Force, left alone with the empty shelves, 
was overcome by loneliness and sought refuge in daily 
journeys to the library. But to see his favorite books 
in a new and strange setting was no relief. His physical 
powers began to fail, and he died January 23, 1868. 

In 1879 efforts were made, probably through the 
initiation of the librarian of congress, to continue the 


publication of Force's papers. The matter was intro- 
duced into the senate by Senator Voorhees, and the 
committee on the Hbrary was directed to report on the 
papers from 1776 to 1783. This called forth a report 
from the librarian, Dr. Spofford. He was not specific, 
estimating merely that there was enough material in 
the collection to make thirty folio volumes of 800 
pages each, which if printed like the original volumes 
could be published for $4 each, according to the esti- 
mate of the public printer. No further action was 
taken. ^ 

The Force collection of manuscripts formed the 
nucleus of the treasures of the manuscripts division of 
the library of congress. Dr. Spofford's description of 
the collection already cited does not enable us to dis- 
cover how many of the manuscripts were original and 
how many were copies. Inquiries at the division show 
that the originals were received in about forty bound 
volumes, and that they have been cut up and the sheets 
distributed with other papers,^ so that it is diflBcult 
to make a list of those that were obtained through the 
Force collection. 

The transcripts have been kept together and the 
most valuable have been bound. They consist of 
papers relating to the following states : Massachusetts, 

1 Cong. Record, 46th cong., Vol. IX, prt. 1, p. 77, and prt. 2, p. 1350 
(March 27 and May 15), Sen. Miscel. Doc. No. 34, 46th cong., 1st sess.— 1879. 

^ In this investigation I have received much assistance from Mr. John 
C. Fitzpatrick, of the MSS. Division, Library of Congress, always an 
efficient friend of investigators. 


45 volumes; New Hampshire, 17 volumes; Vermont, 
7 volumes ; Connecticut, 3 volumes ; New York, 40 
volumes ; Pennsylvania, 4 volumes ; Maryland, 5 vol- 
umes ; South Carolina, 2 volumes ; and Georgia, 
6 volumes. The rest of the thirteen original states are 
not represented in this collection, although it is known 
that Force had papers relating to some of them. 

The character of these collections may be seen by 
examining the volumes for one of the states, and for 
this purpose Massachusetts will serve. On it were 
more volumes than on any other state. Resolutions of 
the towns filled six ; letters relating to the revolution, 
five ; petitions, four ; papers of the board of war, six ; 
provincial congress journals, four; provincial congress 
resolves, one ; council papers, four ; council letters and 
messages, three ; committee of safety journal, one ; 
papers relating to military affairs, three; house of 
representatives journals, three ; general court resolves, 
four ; and committee reports, etc., one. 

Thirty-one of the total number do not extend beyond 
the year 1777, and of the rest only a small part of the 
contents go beyond that year. Nor is there evidence 
that Force had collected many documents for the 
period earlier than 1773. His habit seems to have been 
to make copies as he needed them of the well-known 
collections in various states. But if he came across an 
interesting thing that covered an earlier or later period, 
he took that also, on the ground that he would need it 
some time. My examination of the transcripts does 


not support the theory that he had intact a vast col- 
lection ready to be sent to the printer and complete for 
the revolutionary period. It would seem that he lived 
from hand to mouth, as it were. Of course, it is im- 
possible to say how many originals he had in his col- 
lection. If these were very numerous, however, they 
would bulk large in the general collection in the library, 
where they were distributed. On this point a more 
careful research than I have had opportunity to make 
would throw light on the interesting question of the 
value of Force's collection. 



In the preceding sketches Httle has been said about 
the arrangements of the early historians with their 
pubhshers, a subject of such interest to the historians 
of the present day that it cannot well be omitted. We 
do not see the writing of history on a sound and re- 
spectable basis in any country until it is, like other 
professions, on a self-supporting footing. The laborer 
is worthy of his hire; and it is significant that those 
historians have had greatest national influence who 
have reaped the best rewards from their efforts. Any 
consideration, therefore, of the growth of historical 
literature in a given period should include a considera- 
tion of the economic aspects of the subject. 

At the time with which I have been dealing a book 
that may be described as popular did fairly well in 
both Great Britain and the United States, as is 
shown by the fact that Washington Irving was paid 
three thousand pounds for the copyright of a British 
edition of his "Life of Columbus." The demand for 
such works was certain. It was a time when people 
wished to have good books in their homes ; and while 
the book-buying class was not large, it had a real desire 
for something to read. History, also, was still con- 



sidered among the branches of "polite and entertain- 
ing literature." It had not at that time taken on 
the character of philosophy, economic statistics, and 
political science which makes it a thing to be dreaded 
by the mass of present-day readers. These conditions 
made the task of the popular historian a century ago 
somewhat better than today, although he had still 
many difficulties to encounter. 

Belknap and Hazard were not to be classed as popu- 
lar. It was theirs to write scholarly books, and their 
chief reliance for the favor of the public was the desire 
to perpetuate the deeds of a heroic past. No pub- 
lisher waited to assume the risk of publication, guaran- 
teeing the author a profit in the form of royalties or 
bonuses. To get their books published they must 
assume the risks, and their first step was to secure 
subscriptions in advance of publications. Blanks were 
prepared, with spaces left for the names of subscribers 
below the descriptions of the proposed works, and sent 
out to persons who would circulate them through friend- 
ship or for commissions. After the lists had passed 
from hand to hand they were sent back to the author, 
who then knew whether or not he might proceed with 
the enterprise. Some of Belknap's lists were left in 
the hands of booksellers who displayed them where 
customers could see them. He himself sent out those 
that were intended for New England, while his friend, 
Hazard, looked after those sent out in Philadelphia 
and New York. Hazard insisted that an advance pay- 


merit of half the price should be paid by the sub- 
scribers, which was not the custom in New England. 
Belknap thought that this demand lessened the num- 
ber of subscriptions. 

The next step concerned the actual manufacture of 
the book. Belknap made his arrangements with 
Robert Aitken, of Philadelphia, a Scotchman whom 
Hazard recommended as a better printer than could 
be found in Boston. The estimate of cost furnished 
by Aitken, which proved to be a little too small, was 
as follows : For printing, including the type-setting, 
5 pounds 10 shillings for each of the twenty -five sheets, 
the edition to be 1000 copies. For stitching 50 pounds. 
For 58 reams of paper at one pound each, 58 pounds. 
The whole edition would thus cost 245 pounds and 10 
shillings, equal to about 5 shillings for each book fur- 
nished. The estimate was in Pennsylvania currency, 
worth 60% of sterling money. By "stitching" was 
meant not only the sewing of the books but binding 
them in boards, the customary form for books of the 
day. In this connection an amusing situation arose 
in connection with the New Hampshire subscribers. 
When the natives read that the book was to be sold at 
10 shillings "in boards," referring to the binding, they 
assumed that it meant that the payment was to be 
in clapboards, an article in which they were accustomed 
to pay their bills. Belknap discovered the error in 
time to save himself from being overwhelmed by this 
kind of boards. 


When the book was at last ready for distribution 
prospects seemed good for large sales at 10 shillings 
each. But so many subscribers failed to take their 
copies that the author found himself under a debt to 
Aitken which he had not the means to discharge. In 
despair he lowered the price, but to no good end ; and 
it was ten years before he finally paid the obligation. 
The publication of the second volume in 1791 and the 
third in 1792 gave impetus to the sale of the first. In 
1791 the legislature of New Hampshire allowed him 
50 pounds in token of the esteem in which his labors 
were held. Moreover, he was at this time in receipt 
of a respectable salary as minister, and the "American 
Biography" and the "Foresters " were yielding him 
something. All in all, Belknap was beginning to 
prosper in a worldly way when death cut short his 
career in 1798. Had he lived longer he would doubt- 
less have found that literature was slightly profitable. 
That it was not notably so is shown in the following 
statement from Hazard in 1795 : 

"I am sorry that so many [of the Histories] remain unsold here. 
It must be charged to want of taste in the age, I believe. I more 
than sympathize with you, for I have not sold enough of my Col- 
lections yet to pay for printing the 1st volume ! and I believe you 
have. Our friend Morse seems to be the only successful author in 
the triumvirate. What a pity it is that we had not been geog- 
raphers instead of historians." 

"Friend Morse" was Jedediah Morse, whose geog- 
raphies and gazetteers were then in great demand. 


When Belknap began to write, congress had passed 
no copyright law. Under the old congress that was the 
function of the states. But in 1790 the new congress 
passed such an act, thus protecting authors against 
pirating. When a newspaper editor in New Hampshire 
announced that he would bring out the " History " in 
installments, Belknap invoked the law in the following 
sarcastic words : "As I am particularly interested in 
the success of that literary adventure, I beg you would 
set me down for a subscriber for the Cheshire Adver- 
tiser for one year, to commence from the first portion 
of the said History which you may reprint, and send 
the papers regularly to me by the post. If you are 
desirous of reprinting the certificate from the Clerk 
of the Federal Court which secures the copyright of 
the said History to me and my heirs, agreeably to the 
laws of the United States, be so good as to let me know 
it, and I will send you an authenticated copy." The 
*' literary adventure" was carried no further. 

When Jared Sparks took up the work of a historian, 
the condition of the literary market in the United 
States was more promising than in the time of Belknap 
and Hazard. The era of manufactures had brought 
solid prosperity to New England, planting cotton 
had made the South wealthy, and trade and advancing 
land values had proved a boon to the people of the 
country generally. Better still, the establishment of 
the North American Review had raised the standard 
of taste in regard to serious books. Sparks was a man 


of unusual ability in discovering what kind of books 
the people would buy. He divined that the existing 
generation was deeply interested in the revolution, 
and in the men who laid the foundation of the new 
nation. Here lay the field into which he decided to 
carry his efforts. 

He possessed much business shrewdness, and his bar- 
gains with the publishers were usually advantageously 
made. Mention has already been made of the finan- 
cial considerations of his "Diplomatic Correspond- 
ence," which must have yielded him a net return of 
several thousand dollars.^ When he first made plans 
for the "Writings of Washington" he expected to 
appoint agents who would conduct an active canvass 
for subscriptions in advance. Several such agents, in 
fact, were appointed. But before publication he 
changed his method for a plan then coming into general 
use and destined to be followed for many years by the 
historians in the United States. He had the type set 
at his own expense and ordered stereotyped plates, 
for which he paid. He then agreed with a Boston 
firm to allow them to publish and sell 4000 sets of the 
work, paying him a royalty of about sixty cents a vol- 
ume. This firm, however, failed before the work was 
issued, and he made a new contract, by which he was 
to be paid fifty cents for each volume of the "Writ- 
ings" and eighty-five cents for each volume of the 
"Life." On the "Writings" he had to share the pro- 

* See above, page 117. 


ceeds with Marshall and Washington, but all the 
returns from the "Life" belonged to him. In 1852 
he said the 7000 sets of the "Writings" and 8500 copies 
of the "Life" had been sold, together with 5500 copies 
of an abridged "Life." The last, in two volumes, 
yielded a royalty of twelve and a half cents a volume. 
Sparks changed his publishers several times, and it is 
not certain that the same royalty was paid by each. 
But it could not have varied much from the original 
rate, and on that basis he would have received $8,600 
on the two editions of the "Life," from which should 
be deducted probably $1,600 for making plates. From 
the "Writings" he would have received $38,500, on 
which the expenses to be deducted were by his own 
statement ^ $15,356.37. Subtracting this amount from 
the total receipts we have $23,143.63, half of which 
was paid to the heirs of Washington and Marshall. 
From these sources the work would yield $18,571.81 
in fifteen years after the completion of publication. 
But these are not all the sources. In 1846 Sparks 
made a contract with Harper & Brothers for a cheap 
edition at a royalty of twenty-five cents a volume. 
There were, also, editions in abridged form in the 
French and German languages, from which something 
was received. Besides, it must be remembered the 
"Washington" had a moderate sale after 1852, when 
the figures were made for the estimate here introduced. 
These very figures, in fact, were submitted to pub- 

^ Adams, "Life of Jared Sparks," H, 295. Also see above, page 118. 


lishers in making arrangements for a new edition. All 
in all, it seems safe to assume that Sparks received as 
much as $25,000 for his labors on this work. Nor 
were these labors necessarily great. The "Life" was 
a task of considerable burden, but it was in one volume 
octavo. Editing the "Writings" was not as laborious 
as the size of the volumes may suggest. A better edi- 
tion has been made within recent years in less time 
than it took Sparks to prepare his, and for a small 
fraction of the money he was able, through his financial 
ability, to extract from the process. 

Sparks sold the copyright of his "Works of Frank- 
lin" for $2,000, retaining his right in the "Life" that 
accompanied it. The "Life of Gouverneur Morris" 
was undertaken with the agreement that Sparks should 
have half the profits. His returns from it were incon- 
siderable, as the sale was small, and in 1839 he relin- 
quished to Mrs. Morris his claim to further proceeds. 
For the "Correspondence of the American Revolu- 
tion," the "Familiar Letters of Franklin," and the 
"Life of John Ledyard" he probably received little. 
The "American Almanac," in which he sold his half 
interest after a year's ownership, proved to be very 
profitable ; but it was impossible for him to carry it 
on while engaged in his other work. 

In the "Library of American Biography" Sparks 
probably possessed his most profitable literary prop- 
erty. The enterprise began in cooperation with the 
publishers, who paid one dollar for each 16mo page. 


Sparks allowed each contributor seventy cents a page, 
reserving thirty for himself as editor. In return for 
the advance by the publishers, he agreed that they 
might print and sell 2,000 copies. But he himself 
owned the copyright, and as the contributors were no 
longer to be dealt with he received all the royalties on 
the later editions. As the work was published in 
twenty-five volumes, and ran through a large number 
of editions, the receipts of the editor were exceedingly 

Of course, his profits were taken at the expense of the 
contributors, who were in the larger sense the real 
authors of the "Library of American Biography." By 
accepting a cash sum for their labors they threw away 
future possibilities. It is an unwise author who will sell 
his labor for that sum which a publisher feels he can 
afford to offer under such conditions, since no publisher 
could afford to offer more than he thinks is absolutely 
sure to come back to him. In entering into such a con- 
tract the author surrenders all the contingency in his 
work, accepting only that which it can hardly fail to 
pay. Report says that for a series of small volumes in 
American history that appeared in recent years the 
authors were paid five hundred dollars each ; yet these 
books have sold to the extent of more than a hundred 
thousand copies. 

Sparks's plan of retaining the copyright and manu- 
facturing the plates, while he contracted with pub- 
lishers to sell limited editions at specified royalties. 


was followed also by Bancroft, Prescott, and Motley. 
In fact it became the accepted way of bringing out a 
book at a time when the publisher was not so important 
on the business side of literature as to-day. The tend- 
ency was for the author to retain control of his enter- 
prise, and to take a strong position with reference to 
the publisher. To-day the publisher occupies the 
stronger position. He is the entrepreneur, and the 
author looks to him for the initiative, or waits anxiously 
to see whether or not his ideas, once formed, will prove 
agreeable to the source from which comes the only 
opportunity to put them into force. 

It is impossible to say what returns Bancroft received 
from his "History of the United States." The earliest 
volumes were in the twenty -fifth edition in 1878, and 
the demand for the book was still active. In his old 
age the author was in very comfortable circumstances. 
Although he had married a woman of wealth it was 
generally supposed that a considerable part of his for- 
tune was derived from the receipts from his books, 
which his sagacity had enabled him to invest advan- 

Prescott's method of publishing was like that of 
Sparks. He had stereotyped plates made and then 
contracted with publishers for editions of a limited 
size for specified sums or royalties. For the first edi- 
tion of the "Ferdinand and Isabella" the publishers 
were to sell 1,250 copies within five years and to pay 
him $1,000 in advance. The edition was sold in five 


months and other editions followed in rapid succession. 
For the "Conquest of Mexico" Harper & Brothers 
paid $7,500 for the privilege of issuing 5J000 copies. 
Here, also, a new edition was soon called for, and it 
was issued with a new contract. For an English edi- 
tion he was paid 650 pounds, and it too was followed 
by a second edition soon afterwards. For the "Con- 
quest of Peru" he was paid $7,500 on the day of pub- 
lication for an edition of 7,500 copies, the edition to 
be sold within one year, and later editions to be issued 
at the same rate unless the author wished to make 
other arrangements. Throughout all the years of pub- 
lication the demand for the earlier works was consider- 
able; so that his total receipts must have been very 
large. For the copyright of an English edition of the 
"Peru" he was paid 800 pounds. These were unusu- 
ally good terms for the day. To obtain $11,500 for a 
book on a history topic the day it is published would 
be considered a remarkable achievement in these days, 
although the population of the country is now several 
times what it was in 1847. 

The historical books of Washington Irving afforded 
him a handsome revenue. Before 1835 his receipts 
from the "Columbus," the "Voyages of Columbus," 
"Astoria," "Bonneville," "Grenada," and "Alham- 
bra" amounted to $66,375; and of this sum $41,875 
came from the American editions. On these works 
from 1835 to 1842 his receipts were $8,050. For a few 
years his works were out of print; but from 1848 to 


his death, 1859, the return from all his works was 
$88,143. Assuming that in this period the same pro- 
portion of the total came from the historical books as 
in the former period, he received from this source in 
this latter period the comfortable sum of about $44,000. 
We may thus conclude that at his death Washington 
Irving's historical works had paid him at least $118,000, 
and were still selling well.^ 

We have little information of Motley's financial 
arrangements with his publishers. We only know that 
his books sold in large numbers. A year after publica- 
tion the "Rise of the Dutch Republic" had been pur- 
chased to the extent of 15,000 copies, and the "United 
Netherlands" and "John of Barneveld" went off quite 
as well. They long remained in active demand : in 
fact, they are still sold in considerable numbers. 

Thus we see that the middle of the nineteenth cen- 
tury was a happy time for the abler historians then in 
the United States. A great change had come over the 
historical situation since Hazard and Belknap, after 
they had made their gallant attempts in authorship, 
had found themselves with hands full of unsold books. 
Genuine interest in history had spread throughout the 
country, and a prosperous people were willing to pur- 
chase well-written books which dealt with it. History, 
a plant of slow growth, had come to maturity in the 
United States. It was nourished by men of great 
literary skill, who gave their energy of mind as much 

1 Pierre Irving, " Life and Letters of Washington Irving," IV, 410. 


to the task of expression as to that of collecting infor- 

The old school came to its end with the advent of the 
critical spirit, whose greatest impulse was to test old 
statements, to bring to the surface new views, and 
to set forth phases of life that were formerly ignored. 
Criticism has made history a new creature. It is a 
thing for the readers who like originality. In spite of 
the great emphasis that is now being given to history 
in the public schools the circle that reads history is 
perhaps not as large in proportion to population as 
in the days of Prescott and Motley. Why this is 
true and how it may be remedied are not parts of my 
subject. They are problems for historians to solve, 
problems that require as much mental ability and 
as much originality of judgment as any of the phases 
of criticism that have to be met and determined. 


Aberdeen, Lord, and Sparks, 98, 103. 

Adams, Charles Francis, influence as 
a critic, 47. 

Adams, Herbert B., 135. 

Adams, John Quincy, supports 
Clarke and Force, 258, 260. 

Aitken, Robert, 40, 305. 

American Antiquarian Society, plan 
to obtain British documents, 243. 

"American Archives," 88; the origin 
of the idea, 239, 275 ; approved by 
Congress, 247-248; contract with 
Livingston, 248; detailed plan, 
254, 261 ; criticized by Forsyth, 
255 ; in Congress, 257-261 ; pub- 
lished, 261-263 ; purpose explained 
in preface, 262; contents of vol- 
umes, 265, 267, 271, 272; sus- 
pended, 266-270; agreement of 
1843, 267; the series discussed, 
270-274 ; plans to revive, 299. 

"American State Papers," 88. 

"Annals of Congress," 88. 

"Annual Register," a source of rev- 
olutionary history, 12. 

Arthur, President, on George Ban- 
croft, 190. 

Bancroft, Rev. Aaron, 138. 

Bancroft, George, 46, 215 ; reviews 
Pickering's lexicon, 68-71 ; and 
Sparks, 100; method of editing, 
109; and methods of education, 
123; his birth, 138; education, 
138; relations with Andrews Nor- 
ton, 139-141 ; instructor at Har- 
vard, 139-146; attempts reforms, 


141-146; his part in the Round 
Hill School, 146-148 ; as a teacher, 
148-150 ; his early literary efforts, 
150-153; his "Poems," 151; edit- 
ing textbooks, 151 ; Mrs. Lyman 
on, 152; turns to history, 153, 
177; translates Heeren, 153; re- 
lations with the North American 
Review, 154-160, 162-165; early 
connection with Sparks, 154 ; ar- 
ticle on Buttman and Jacob, 154; 
on German poetry, 155 ; on 
Goethe, 155, 156-158 ; on Picker- 
ing's lexicon, 156, 163; on the 
necessity for thrift, 160; on 
popular contempt for authors, 
163; thinking of an article on the 
Connecticut Valley, 165; influence 
of Sparks on him, 165 ; longs for 
literary career, 165 ; his dislike for 
teaching, 166, 177; early political 
views, 166; on Caleb Gushing, 
167; his Fourth of July oration, 
1826, 167; supports John Quincy 
Adams, 168; his article on the 
bank, 168-172; effects on his 
career, 171 ; visit to Cleveland, 
172; visit to Washington, 172; 
drawn into politics, 173; on 
Bates, 174; indifferent to his 
critics, 176; relations with Van 
Buren, 176; with W. L. Marcy, 
176 ; influence of Heeren on, 179 ; 
"History of the United States," 
first volume published, 179; his 
historical ideals, 179, 181 ; order 
of publication of volumes in the 



"History," 181, 193; the book 
commended, 182; criticism of, 
183; ostracized in Boston, 184; 
collector of port at Boston, 184 ; 
political career, 185 ; supports 
Van Buren, 185, 188; writes life 
of Van Buren, 185 ; controversy 
with Josiah Quincy, 18G; with 
G. W. Greene, 187; criticism of, 
187; supports Polk, 188; ap- 
pointed secretary of the navy, 
189-191 ; distinguished in society, 
189; establishes the naval acad- 
emy, 190; minister to Great 
Britain, 191-193; on Macaulay, 
192; collecting documents in 
London, 192; his period of resi- 
dence in New York, 193; out of 
sympathy with the democrats, 
194 ; relations with Andrew John- 
son, 195 ; minister to Germany, 
195-200; flatters Grant, 196; 
relations with Bismarck, 196; 
attacked by Victor Hugo, 197; 
his pro-German qualities, 197- 
199; von Ranke on, 198; his 
democracy weakening, 199; his 
"Literary and Historical Mis- 
cellanies," 200; his "Tribute to 
Humboldt," 201; "On the Canal 
de Haro," 201; "The Constitu- 
tion Wounded in the House of its 
Guardians," 201; "History of 
the Formation of the Constitu- 
tion," 202; revises his "History," 
202; his orations, 203; address 
on Lincoln, 204; as a collector of 
documents and transcripts, 204- 
206; his manuscripts in the New 
York Public Library, 204-206; 
criticized by Sydney G. Fisher, 
206; his literary habits, 207; 
interest in horticulture, 207; lag- 
ging interest in history, 209; re- 
lations with Force, 275; H. 

Stevens, Jr., on, 283, 284; social 
life in Washington, 294 ; love of 
flowers, 294 ; his literary profits, 

Bancroft Manuscripts, contents of, 

Bank of the United States, the 
second, Bancroft's article on, 168- 

Bartlett, John R., 276 n. 1. 277 n. 1, 

Bates, Isaac C, 173; Bancroft on, 

Belknap, Jeremy, 181; his "History 
of New Hampshire," 15, 30-32, 
40 ; as a historian, 24 ; relation 
with Hazard, 24, 31, 35, 39-43, 
304 ; his early life, 25 ; as a minis- 
ter, 25-27 ; controversy at Dover, 
N. H., 25 ; settles in Boston, 27 ; 
early leaning to history, 27; and 
Governor Wentworth, 28; to 
Captain Waldron, 29; a WTiig, 
29; "The Foresters," 31-35; 
"American Biography," 35; and 
the Massachusetts Historical 
Society, 35-37 ; on the task of the 
historian, 41; "The Pleasures of 
a Country Life," 41 n. ; as a his- 
torian, 43; conditions under 
which he published his histories, 

Beverley, Robert, his "History of 
Virginia," 4. 

Bismarck, Otto von, relations with 
Bancroft, 196, 

Blair, F. P., 266. See also Blair and 

Blair and Rives, 82 ; diplomatic cor- 
respondence, 246. 

Bozman, J. L., 48. 

Bradford, William, 2; his "History 
of Plymouth Plantation," 5. 

Brodhead, J. R., 48, 287. 

Brown, John Carter, 287. 



Burk, John Daly, 16; Chief Justice 

Marshall on, 77. 
Burke, Edmund, his writings on the 

American revolution, 13. 

Campbell, Charles, 48. 

Cass, Lewis, 269. 

Chalmers, George, "Political An- 
nals," 44, 240; "Introduction to 
the Revolt," 44. 

Channing, Edward T., 64. 

Circourt, Adolphe de, 215. 

Clarke, John, 186. 

Clarke, Matthew St. Clair, becomes 
interested in the "American Ar- 
chives," 244; on the opposition, 
263 ; retires from partnership, 266. 
See also Force, and " American 

Clayton, John M., 268. 

Clergy, literary influence of, 114. 

Cogswell, Joseph Green, 123, 215 ; 

■ early relations with Bancroft, 146 ; 

his part in the Round Hill School, 

146-148 ; methods of instruction, 


Colden, Dr. Cadwallader, 11. 

Continental Congress, Journals of, 
273 n. 1, 274. 

"Critter, the," nickname for Ban- 
croft, 148, 150. 

Cushing, Caleb, pronounced a trim- 
mer, 167. 

Deane, Charles, 278, 287. 
"Debates in Congress," 88. 
Democratic Review, 215. 
Dover, New Hampshire, Belknap at, 

Drake, Samuel G., 278. 
Draper, Lyman C, 278. 
Dunning, William A., 195. 

Eliot, Rev. John, 36. 

Eliot, S. A., 79; and the letters of 

Washington, 105; and education, 

Eliot, William H., to Sparks, 62 ; on 
the Washington manuscripts, 79. 

Ellis, Rev. George E., on Bancroft, 

Emerson, Ralph Waldo, on Bancroft, 
143; on Bancroft's "History," 182. 

Everett, Alexander H., misuses Ban- 
croft's bank article, 168. 

Everett, Edward, editor of the 
North American Review, 61, 64; 
sells his share, 65 ; on Sparks, 79 ; 
and education, 123 ; early relations 
with Bancroft, 138 ; his reviews 
shortened, 159 ; Bancroft to, on 
the election of 1828, 168 ; Bancroft 
to, on politics in 1834, 174, 177; 
advised Bancroft to write history, 
177; on Bancroft's "History," 
182; aids Clarke and Force, 247, 

Farrar, Professor, 82. 

Fisher, Sydney G., on Bancroft, 206. 

Fitzpatrick, John C, 300 n. 2. 

Force Manuscripts, 299, 300-302. 

Force, Peter, as compiler, 109, 113; 
his early life, 233-235; in Wash- 
ington politics, 235 ; his military 
experience, 235; his "Unwritten 
History," 236; early literary ef- 
forts, 236-238; the "Biennial 
Register," 237; the "National 
Calendar," 237; editor of the 
National Journal, 237 ; " Directory 
of Congress," 238; influenced by 
Sparks, 239; origin of the "Ar- 
chives," 239, 244-246, 275 ; forms 
partnership, 244 ; applies for con- 
tract, 246; success of application, 
248; his "Documentary History 
of the Revolution," 247, 248, 254; 
terms of contract, 249 ; his es- 
timate of the cost of the " American 



Archives," 249-251 ; collecting ma- 
terials, 251 ; opposition to the 
project, 252-261 ; the work pub- 
lished, 261-263 ; plan and purpose, 
261-263; diflScult to get money 
from Congress, 263-267 ; the agree- 
ment of 1843, 266; suspension of 
"American Archives," 266-270; 
not an editor, 272; his work 
criticized, 272-274; accurate edi- 
tions, 273; as a collector, 274- 
293; buying books, 275, 276; 
to Ludewig, 277; relations with 
Henry Stevens, Jr., 281-290; and 
the London Exhibition, 289; his 
"Tracts," 290; interest in Arctic 
exploration, 291 ; " Grinnell Land," 
291; "Supplement to Grinnell 
Land," 292; "Record of Auroral 
Phenomena," 292; "Notes on 
Mahon's 'History,"" 292; on the 
"Mecklenburg Declaration," 292, 
293 n. 1 ; his private life, 293-297 ; 
love of flowers, 294 ; his library, 
295-299; its contents, 298; his 
death, 299. 

Force Manuscripts, 299, 300-302. 

Ford, W. C, 6; on Force's "Amer- 
ican Archives," 274. 

Folsom, Charles, 73. 

Forsyth, John, opposed to the 
"American Archives," 253-256; 
his fairness, 261. 

Franklin, Walter S., 244. 

"Friar Lubin," 101. 

Froude, J. A., on Motley, 225. 

Gales, Joseph, Jr., 273. See Gales 

and Seaton. 
Gales and Seaton, the "American 

State Papers," 239, 246, 249. 
Gayarre, Charles Etienne Arthur, 

his early life, 49 ; his literary 

labors, 50-55 ; his old age, 55. 
Georgia, and British records, 242. 

Gordon, Rev. William, 87 ; describes 
the revolution, 13. 

Grahame, James, 186. 

Grant, U. S., Bancroft and, 196; 
and the recall of Motley, 228. 

Greene, G. W., 187. 

Greene, Nathanael, at Fort Wash- 
ington, 187. 

Harvard, Bancroft at, 138; methods 
of instruction in 1822, 143; aids 
the Round Hill School, 147. 

Hawks, Dr. Francis Lister, 48. 

Haywood, John, 48. 

Hazard, Ebenezer, on the effects of 
the revolution on history, 12; 
as a historian, 24, 43 ; relation with 
Belknap, 24, 31, 35, 39-43, 305; 
early life, 37 ; connected with post 
office, 37; his "Historical Collec- 
tions," 38; influences Force, 239; 
his grant cited by Clarke and 
Force, 249 ; conditions under which 
he published, 304. 

Heeren, A. H. L., position as a 
teacher, 125 ; his works trans- 
lated, 153; influence on Bancroft, 
178, 179, 180. 

Henry, Patrick, life of, by Wirt, 14. 

Henlz, N. M., 148. 

Higginson, T. W., on methods of 
early editors, 108. 

Hildreth, Richard, early career, 46; 
his "History of the United States," 
46; revised quotations, 109. 

Holland, Lord, and Sparks, 94, 95, 

Holmes, Rev. Abiel, his "American 
Annals," 45, 87. 

Holmes, O. W., on Motley, 230. 

Hugo, Victor, on Bancroft, 197. 

Hunt, GailHard, 274. 

Huntsman, Adam, opposes Clarke 
and Force, 260. 

Hutchinson, Mrs. Anne, 9. 



Hutchinson, Thomas, 181 ; his "His- 
tory of Massachusetts Bay," 9-11. 

Indian wars, history of, 7. 

Ingraham, Edward D., 279. 

Irving, Washington, his historical 
works, 22; his "Knickerbocker 
History," 233, 234 n. 1; returns 
from his historical works, 303, 313. 

Jameson, J. Franklin, 182. 

Johnson, Andrew, his message written 
by Bancroft, 195 ; his appointment 
of Bancroft to Berlin, 195. 

Johnson, Cave, opposed to "Amer- 
ican Archives," 258-260. 

King, Miss Grace, on Gayarre, 54. 

Kingsley, Professor James L., 282. 

Kirkland, President J. T., 199; re- 
lations with Bancroft, 139, 142, 
145, 146, 147, 153. 

Lafayette, Marquis de, 96. 

Lansdowne, Lord, and Sparks, 94, 

Lawson, John, 11. 

Ledyard, John, Sparks interested in, 

Livermore, George, 278, 287. 

Livingston, Edward, and the con- 
tract with Clarke and Force, 247, 
248, 253. 

Loomis, Rev. Hubbel, 58, 122. 

Loudon, Archibald, "Indian Narra- 
tive," 279. 

Ludewig, H. E., 277. 

Lyman, Mrs. Joseph, on Bancroft, 

Mably, "Sur I'Etude de rHistoire," 

Macaulay, Thomas B., Bancroft on, 

McCall, Hugh. 48. 

McKay, James J., 264-266; Force 
to, 293 n. 1. 

Mackintosh, Sir James, and Sparks, 
94, 95, 99. 

McLane, Louis, 253. 

Mahon, Lord, and the Sparks con- 
troversy, 101-104, 106, 107; Force 
on, 292. 

Marbois, Marquis de, 96. 

Marcy, William L., relations with 
Bancroft, 177; refuses to write 
life of Van Buren, 185 ; refuses to 
approve the "American Archives," 
268, 269 ; his point of view, 270. 

Marshall, John, Chief Justice, his 
"Life of Washington," 14; and 
the Washington letters, 75, 76; 
Sparks's interview with, 76. 

Martin, Frangois Xavier, 50. 

Massachusetts, early historians in, 
1 ; influences that shaped thought, 
2, 3, 5. 

Massachusetts Historical Society, 
founded, 35-37; plan to obtain 
British documents, 243. 

Mease, Dr., 74. 

Minot, George Richards, 15. 

Moore, George H., and Force's 
library, 298. 

Moore, John Bassett, 112. 

Morse, Jedediah, probable influence 
on Force, 239; profits on his 
books, 306. 

Motley, John Lothrop, his literary 
position, 211 ; conversation with 
Prescott about Philip II, 219; his 
early life, 223 ; " Morton's Hope," 
223; "Merry Mount," 224; in 
Brussels, 225; "Rise of the Dutch 
Republic," 225 ; his large scheme, 
226; "History of the United 
Netherlands," 226; minister to 
Austria, 227; to England, 227; 
"John of Barneveld," 228; his 
death, 229; his literary style. 



229-232; compared with Rubens, 
230; with Prescott, 231; literary 
profits, 314. 

Murphey, Archibald D., his pro- 
posed history, 240, 243. 

Murray, Sir George, 98, 103. 

National Journal, the, 237. 

New York Historical Society, tries 
to purchase Force's library, 297. 

North American Review, 168, 1G9, 
170, 171, 215, 224; Sparks its 
editor, 59; edited by Edward 
Everett, 61, 64; edited by E. T. 
Channing, 64 ; its early history, 
64 ; under the direction of Sparks, 
65-71 ; influence on literature, 66, 

Northampton, Massachusetts, the 
scenery, 147; Round Hill School 
at, 147-150; Gazette on Bancroft, 

North Carolina, "Internal Improve- 
ments in," 72; state of records in, 
92; Murphey's proposed history 
of, 240; looking to the collection 
of documents, 242. 

Norton, Andrews, refuses pay for 
articles, 66; on the literary in- 
fluence of the ministers, 114; 
relations with Bancroft, 139-141 ; 
on New England society, 141. 

Oldmixon, John, 4, 44. 
Onderdonck, Henry, 278. 

Palfrey, Rev. John Gorham, his 
"History of New England," 47, 
48; his "Compendious History," 
48 ; defends Sparks, 106-108. 

Panizzi, Sir Anthony, employs H. 
Stevens, Jr., 288. 

Parker, Theodore, on Bancroft's 
"History." 183. 

Parkman, Francis, in later group, 
vii ; love of flowers, 294. 

Parsons, Theophilus, 64. 

Pequot war, 8. 

Percy, George, 1. 

Philadelphia, its relation to litera- 
ture, 48. 

Philip's war. King, 8. 

Pickering, John, Bancroft's review 
of his lexicon, 68-71, 158, 163. 

Pickett, Albert J., 48. 

Pitkin, Timothy, his "Political and 
Civil History," 45, 87; his" Statis- 
tical View, " 46. 

Polk, President, 252; and Bancroft, 

Pory, John, 1. 

Prescott, William Hickling, 94 ; on 
the North American Review, 67; 
retains friendship with Bancroft, 
185; his "Biographical and 
Critical Miscellanies," 201 ; his 
literary position, 211; early life, 
212; "Ferdinand and Isabella," 
213-215; literary method, 213, 
215, 216, 220; "Conquest of 
Mexico," 215-218; "Conquest of 
Peru," 218; "History of Philip 
II," 219; agreement with Motley, 
219; his death, 220; manner of 
work, 221, 224; compared with 
Motley, 231 ; literary profits, 312. 

Prince, Thomas, his "Chronological 
History," 8. 

Proud, Robert, 16-18; his "History 
of Pennsylvania," 17. 

Publishing, conditions of, 303-314. 

Quincy, Josiah, and Sparks, 126; 
Bancroft's controversy with, 186. 

Ramsay, Dr. David, 87; his "History 

of the American Revolution," 13; 

his "History of South Carolina," 

Ranke, Leopold von, on Bancroft's 

"History," 198. 



Red line map, 129-131. 

Reed, W. B., 278; and the Sparks 

controversy, 101, 104. 
Revolution, American, influence on 

history writing, 11, 18. 
Rich, Obadiah, 273 n. 1, 287. 
Rives, John C, 266. See also Blair 

and Rives. 
Round Hill School, the, established, 

146; its character, 146-148. 
Rowlandson, Mrs. Mary, 8. 

Sandys, George, 1. 

Smith, Buckingham, 278. 

Smith, Captain John, 1, 4. 

Smith, Samuel, 11. 

Smith, Sydney, and Sparks, 94, 95. 

Smith, William, 11. 

South Carolina, plan to secure British 
documents, 242. 

Sparks, Jared, and Belknap's "Amer- 
ican Biography," 35 ; early life, 
57-59; minister in Baltimore, 59- 
64; publishes the "Unitarian 
Miscellany," 60; editor of the 
North American Review, 59, 64- 
71, 154; William H. Eliot to, 61; 
opinion of emancipation, 63; con- 
tributor to reviews, 63, 72; pur- 
chases the North American Review, 
65 ; his editorial methods, 66 ; 
relation with contributors, 68-71 ; 
early literary taste, 71 ; turns to 
history, 73 ; takes up W^ashington, 
73; approaches B. W'ashington, 
74 ; tour in South, 75-77, 91 ; on 
Marshall, 76; makes agreement 
with B. Washington, 78 ; popular- 
ity in Boston, 79; profits on the 
"Washington," 79; historical ac- 
tivity before 1840, 81 ; interest 
fails, 81 ; "Life of John Ledyard," 
82; "Diplomatic Correspondence 
of the Revolution," 82, 111-113, 
117, 135; "The American Alma- 

nac," 82; "Life of Gouverneur 
Morris," 83; "Life and Writings 
of Washington," 83; "Works of 
Benjamin Franklin," 84 ; "Library 
of American Biography," 85 ; on 
writing biography, 86; "Corre- 
spondence of the American Revolu- 
tion," 87; plan for "Documentary 
History," 89, 92; a collector of 
historical documents, 90-100 ; first 
visit to Europe, 93-100; in Lon- 
don, 93-96, 97-99; in Paris, 96; 
criticized for his editorial methods, 
100-113; controversy with Lord 
Mahon, 101-104, 106, 107; method 
of editing, 102, 103, 104, 107, 110, 
111-113; defended by Palfrey, 
106 ; his literary style, 1 14 ; his 
manner of living, 116; and Dr. 
Walter Channing, 116, 120; his 
returns from his books, 117-119, 
307-312; his "Life of Washing- 
ton," 118; methods of literary 
work, 119; and F. W. P. Green- 
wood, 121 ; and his mother, 121 ; 
his ideas on education, 123, 132, 
133; refuses Alford professorship, 
125 ; professor at Harvard, 126- 
131; second visit to Europe, 129; 
finds "red-line map," 129; presi- 
dent of Harvard, 131-133 ; his do- 
mestic life, 134 ; his death, 135 ; 
his lagging interest in history, 
134-137; his manuscripts in Har- 
vard Library, 137; early rela- 
tions with Bancroft, 154 ; his 
policy as editor, 154 ; relations 
with Bancroft, 154-160, 162-165; 
on reviewing, 155, 156-158; in- 
fluence of "Diplomatic Corre- 
spondence" on Force, 245, 248, 
249, 259; relation with Force, 
275 ; his literary income, 307-312 , 
from the "Washington," 308-310; 
on the "Franklin," 310; on the 



"Morris," 310; on the "Library 
of American Biography," 310. 

Sparks, Mrs. Mary C. S., 134. 

Sparks Manuscripts, 137. 

Spofford, A. R., on Force. 295, 296 ; 
securing Force's library for Con- 
gress, 298. 

Stevens, Henry, Force and, 280. 

Stevens, Henry, Jr., and the Franklin 
papers, 85 ; Force's relations with, 
281-290; his early career, 281; 
goes to London, 287; his success 
there, 287-289. 

Stevens, W. B., 48. 

Stith, William, his "History of Vir- 
ginia," 4. 

Storrow, Miss A. G., 79. 

Story, Joseph, refuses pay for articles, 
66; on Bancroft's "History," 182. 

Strachey, William, 1. 

Thacher, Rev. Peter, 36. 

Ticknor, George, and education, 123, 
125 ; struggle for reform at Har- 
vard, 132; relations with Ban- 
croft, 141, 142; attempts to 
introduce reforms at Harvard, 
143, 146; his advice to Bancroft 
in regard to politics, 176; his 
"Lifeof Prescott,"221. 

Tocqueville, Alexis de, on Belknap's 
"New Hampshire," 31. 

Trumbull, Benjamin, 15, 45. 

Tucker, George, his "History of the 
United States," 49; his "Life of 
Jefferson," 49. 

Tudor, William, 36. 

Van Buren, Martin, his relations 
with Bancroft, 176, 185 ; his life 
by Bancroft, 185 ; defeated for 
nomination, 188; advice to Ban- 
croft, 190. 

Vanderpoel, Aaron, 258. 

Virginia, early historians in, 1 ; in- 
fluences that shaped thought, 2, 
3, 4. 

Waldron, Captain, 29. 

Warren, Mrs. Mercy Otis, 23. 

Washington, Bushrod, his connection 
with the Washington letters, 74-80. 

Washington, George, life of, by Mar- 
shall, 14; by Weems, 21; on 
Sparks's edition and the " Writ- 
ings," see Sparks. 

Webster, Daniel, and Sparks, 130. 

Weems, Mason Locke, as a writer of 
books, 19-22; his "Life of Wash- 
ington," 21. 

Wentworth, Governor, 28. 

Wheeler, John H., his opinion of 
his "History of North Carolina," 

Whitaker, Rev. Alexander, 1. 

Williams, Rev. John, 8. 

Williamson, Dr. Hugh, 16. 

Wingfield, Edward Maria, 1. 

Winslow, Edward, 2. 

Winthrop, John, 2; his "History of 
New England," 6. 

Wirt, William, his "Life of Patrick 
Henry," 14. 

Wordsworth, William, calls on 
Sparks, 95. 

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